Tämä viestiketju jatkaa tätä viestiketjua: QUESTIONS FOR THE AVID READER, Part 3.

Tämä viestiketju jatkuu täällä: QUESTIONS FOR THE AVID READER, Part 6.

KeskusteluClub Read 2020

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Muokkaaja: elokuu 13, 2020, 6:57am


heinäkuu 17, 2020, 7:25am


NOTE: for the purpose of our discussion, “modern” books shall be defined as adult books published during your lifetime (we will cover antique book covers at another time).

According to the industry, a book cover is meant to be a hook to grab you, the potential reader; but also to generate interest or curiosity. The claim is that a book cover should convey genre, audience, tone, and suggest what the book is about all in a few seconds. Do you think most of them succeed?

Are you likely to pick up a book off the library or bookstore shelves because of its cover? Are you attracted to certain kinds of covers (and is that because you are attracted to certain kinds of books?); what makes a good cover in your mind? Can you show us an example? Conversely, are you repelled by some covers?

In the past 10 years there has been issues about how women (or parts of them) are portrayed on book covers, but other issues include authors having too much input into their own books' covers, and or that most contemporary covers look disturbingly alike …and so on. Do you have any particular beefs with modern cover art?

Consider these questions, as always, a starting point in the conversation.... Otherwise, we would love to see some of your favorite modern cover art....

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 17, 2020, 11:22am

This is one of my favorite covers that connect it directly with the story, as well as throwing in a few puns along the way

Major Pettigrews Last Stand

and the book is pretty delightful as well. (I don't like a lot of sap in my books and while the cover looks like it could be full of it, it really doesnt)

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 17, 2020, 11:30am

Just to get the conversational ball rolling, one beef I have with modern book covers is that the author name sometimes is in much larger type than the title of the book. (Especially true with established authors that are going on name recognition rather than content of the book itself.) I do not want to be forced to hunt for the title, which might appear in much smaller type or at the bottom of the cover.

I am repelled by covers that suggest violence, blood, or picture people in passionate embrace with women who are partially naked (found on some romance novels, "bodice rippers").

I do pick up books based on their cover art sometimes, although I usually know what I am looking for when I visit the library or brick and mortar/ online bookshop. I like classic mysteries as well as cozy mysteries, which might picture a dog or cat, culinary, village, library, or garden setting, with perhaps a tiny suggestion of a crime tucked somewhere into the scene, such as a skull and crossbones, nothing graphic. Most of them do not feature people on the covers. I also read novels about Amish people, which usually include Amish people on the cover. The cover would just get me to pick it up (or not) and then look inside.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 17, 2020, 11:21am

double post

heinäkuu 17, 2020, 1:58pm

I was tempted to write a long essay about aesthetics and graphic design, but it’s probably better not to, as I don’t actually know much about it, and the conclusions are fairly predictable: the sort of covers I tend to find ugly or offensive are very rarely on the sort of books I would be likely to buy. I like clean lines, text that’s not too big or too busy, I prefer no picture to a generic picture that has nothing to do with the book, etc., etc. But, in the end, a boring cover with a headless woman/woman looking away/child in bathing suit picture is just boring: it still tells me which kind of market the publisher is aiming at and it’s not going to stop me buying the book.

Most of the books with really unpleasant covers I have are seventies “Sex sells” paperback designs, which technically fall within the permitted scope of the question, but count as very dated now.

>4 LadyoftheLodge: That Murder on the Orient Express cover would be a classic example of a cover that would put me off: a stock picture of a train that is so very obviously from the wrong continent that you know the publisher has gone to no effort whatsoever in putting the book together.

>3 cindydavid4: I loved the Major Pettigrew cover, but that’s the sort of opportunity for a designer that only comes along very rarely. And it’s so subtle that it probably didn’t actually do much for the sales...

heinäkuu 17, 2020, 2:34pm

QUESTION 29 Publishers, Small presses and their Imprints.

These days, Tor Books knows me too well, and is very good at supplying me with interesting books. I like Small Beer Press for quirkier sorts of titles; also the other SFF small presses, like Subterranean, PS Press, Nightshade and Tachyon.

When I was young, I mostly did not notice publishers, with the exception of two imprints that were common in libraries. Avalon Books had a distinctive rocket colophon:

Most of these books weren't very good, but I read them nonetheless. The other imprint that got automatic reads, also featuring a rocket colophon, was Winston Science Fiction.

The Winston books were "juveniles", what we now call YA books, and their authors were generally a bit better than Avalon's. They also had a memorable, if pulpy, endpaper:

heinäkuu 17, 2020, 2:37pm

>6 thorold: As you know, many SFF books of the era with no sexual content whatsoever still had covers featuring nudes. Don't know why.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 17, 2020, 2:42pm

>6 thorold: Yes, much more blatant 'sex sells' covers back then (I'm thinking of some of the books on the Hubby's SF paperback shelves), are the publishers communicating that differently these days? (I wrote this before he posted above, really!)

heinäkuu 17, 2020, 2:42pm

Bad designs:

(1) Obviously a thriller, look at that black background and the bold, gilded author name — well, no, actually it's an actor's diary...
(2) Apocalyptic SF thriller or anti-apartheid novel? You decide.
(3) Busy, busy, busy! Which one is the title? And how do you calculate the square root of Richard P Feynman?
(4) OK, this is a serious music-history book with a feminist slant. How are we going to get people to buy it? — I know: a headless woman. Never fails!
(5) The designer obviously had a really bad hangover that morning.

Good designs:

(1) Interesting, puzzling, and very intimately connected with what the book is about
(2) Let the typography do the work
(3) Sword turns into airport. This is clever, rather than elegant, perhaps, and it probably takes too long to decode, but it is a stunning picture.
(4) The artwork is perhaps inspired more by the title than by the story, but still, I love designs where hand-lettering is incorporated in the artwork
(5) Grumpy author, clear typography — really makes you want to read it

heinäkuu 17, 2020, 2:45pm

>9 avaland: OMG, too funny!!!

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 17, 2020, 3:05pm

>9 avaland: From left to right: 1976 hardback, 1977 paperback, mid-1980s reprint (artwork by Paul Cox)
I think anyone who bought the middle one on the strength of the picture would be rather confused and disappointed: there's a lot of 18th-century art history stuff to get through before you get to the sex! And the Venetian reference in the carnival mask is perhaps a bit too understated.


heinäkuu 17, 2020, 4:06pm

>12 thorold: The same artist did all three? I suppose he is reacting to the styles of the day? (ah, the 70s) Hope he wasn't paid too much for that first one, LOL.

Going through my library, it strikes me how some book covers—at least here in the US—have become iconic over the decades. Who isn't familiar with the cover of Handmaid's Tale or Siddhartha?

I was also thinking about nonfiction covers vs fiction covers. Do we expect the same from the covers of nonfiction?

Ah, and then I thought about poetry, particularly single poet collections, seems a place where the covers can run free.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 17, 2020, 4:59pm

>13 avaland: No, sorry, that was ambiguous: only the last one was by Cox. Don’t know who designed the first two: The photo on the middle one is credited to Michael Brammen. Text-only designs are harder than they look, but I don’t think that first one is very special...

I always think of the Penguin Clockwork orange when someone talks about iconic covers. Which Siddhartha is the iconic one? LT has about 750 covers, about half with pictures of Buddha statues. Mine is one with a small photo of the author.

Non-fiction covers a huge range, from airport self-help stuff that has to shout “BUY ME!” “This book will change your life!” “Over 2 billion copies sold in US in the last week!”, etc., to academic books that no-one can afford anyway, so why spend money on the cover. There seems to be a sweet-spot somewhere in the middle, where you get things like Pelicans.



(I do like the new Faber text-only covers. The Sophie Hannah book isn't a very good anthology, but I like the cover)

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 18, 2020, 5:07am

OK. I don't buy books by their covers but there are certainly covers that get my attention. And I like having a cover with cover art if it is only suggestion; I don't like a cover telling me too much. I'm a visual person and I enjoy color and design. These attract me for different reasons. I've only included covers here that go back no further than maybe the 70s, or certainly the 80s, but generally these are reasonably contemporary.

I don't have any real beef with cover art, although the partial women has always been interesting (and I note that those above happen to all be whole!) And I think the issue of book covers seeming too much a like is often true which is probably while I am attracted to particularly clever ones (makes me think the author is clever also).

I'll come back in early next week with my favorite poetry covers.

heinäkuu 18, 2020, 12:44am

Goodness, what a difficult question. I am very tuned in to covers, but I never decide to purchase on that basis alone. I, too, hate the "bodice ripper" covers. I, too, like just letters, if they are done cleverly or it is a beautiful font. I am drawn to great textiles in clothing or drapery in a room, and people who have ambiguous expressions on their faces. Think of The Girl with the Pearl Earring for an example. I like pictures of old cities, and house furnishings. I'm not that drawn to nature drawings, and a "cute" animal on the cover really turns me off. I also don't like spy stories or stories that hinge on intrigue, and these covers are often telling: somehow they tell you what they are about. I also like attractive people, but not half-dressed, unless it is erotica or a beach scene.

I'm falling asleep, and it is too much trouble to make a post that complicated as one with multiple pictures. I'll see you tomorrow.

heinäkuu 18, 2020, 8:26am

>15 avaland: oh that Far Pavilllions cover, yes. Thats the one with her picutures she did for the book, and all are just lovely and evocative of the time and place

heinäkuu 18, 2020, 2:12pm

I like the new trend of covers that are just good graphic design, with a little interesting typography maybe. But what makes a good cover varies. Here are a few that grabbed me.

In this case, the cover art refers strongly to an event in the novel, but with subtlety and it's just great design.

There's a simplicity to this cover that still manages to convey a lot about the novel.

There's a pleasing retro feel to this cover and although the novel itself is set in the present day, the novel is quirky and odd and well-represented by the cover art.

I spent weeks drawn to this cover before finally reading the book.

So this one closely references events in the book. There's a small piece of bologna in the middle of the cover, perfectly placed. The author mentioned that she was taken aback that the cover got the breed of dog wrong, but I think this dog reflects the spirit of the dog in the book.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 18, 2020, 2:37pm

>6 thorold: That Agatha Christie cover was from a current version of the book, probably film-related for the modern film version. My older copies have different covers. There are 603 different covers for this book, and many of them feature the train. Interesting that the train looks the same on them.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 19, 2020, 3:27am

>19 LadyoftheLodge: Yes, there’s certainly a fabulous assortment of General Railway Ignorance there: even one cover that shows a steam agricultural traction engine and another with a modern high-speed train!

The train in the book is coming from Istanbul ca. 1930 and gets stuck in the snow somewhere in (then-)Yugoslavia, so it should have a 1930s Yugoslav steam loco and Wagons-lits coaches, if the artist is depicting the snow scene, or maybe a Turkish loco if it’s supposed to be showing them leaving Istanbul. Obviously it would also be legitimate to use something that could be a stylised advertisement for the luxury train, where you might have a French loco of the period.

There do seem to be a few that have tried to get it right, but the majority have gone with the first stock image that came to hand, including quite a few British and American trains (with and without snow), and a lot of Spanish/Portuguese editions with a totally irrelevant photo of what looks like a London terminus (Liverpool Street??) somewhere around 1914. Only a few have played it safe with sleeping-car interiors or pictures of empty railway track in the snow.


From left: Murder on the ICE; Murder on the threshing machine; Murder on the Hogwarts Express (improbably-coloured British loco, probably from a Hornby catalogue); Murder at Victoria Station; Murder on the Flying Scotsman (1); Murder on the Flying Scotsman (2) (last two are clearly from the same image of a post-1945 British train); Murder on the Old Patagonian Express


From left: French train; stylised thirties image; stylised snow image; plausibly Balkan; Wagons-lits in the snow;

Special mention:

From left: First prize for imaginative interpretation of the US title (but the artist forgot to fit the sleeping-cars with doors...); First prize for avoiding the problem; Only known front-cover spoiler...

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 19, 2020, 3:49am

...I missed this one: another classic Polish cover design, obviously taken from Salvador Dali's brief spell as illustrator for the Thomas the tank engine series:

(As far as I can tell, the loco is a French tank engine, as used on Paris suburban services)

Apart from the railway aspects, this one has another classic design disaster: red text on a black background, all but illegible if you have any kind of colour-vision problem.

heinäkuu 19, 2020, 3:48am

>20 thorold:
Everything about this post is awesome. Thank you for all you do.

Some comments about the bottom row: Left picture: do all trains have doors on both sides? Is it plausible the doors were on the other side of the cars? I haven't been on a train in Europe in 1 yr 1 mo 25 days*, and over the years I've noticed all sorts of different trains with different configurations. This reminds me of the trains with the compartments and the corridors down one side. You're certainly right, but I'd never have noticed that detail.

*not counting, not still miffed about my cancelled 3 weeks in Slovenia, Italy & Switzerland

Right picture First prize for avoiding the problem; Only known front-cover spoiler... As my daughter would say, "LOOOOOL." Wow, that's bad, isn't it!

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 19, 2020, 11:00pm

In the past 10 years there has been issues about how women (or parts of them) are portrayed on book covers

Oh yes! The torso, the cropped body, the woman from behind. Usually it's lazy and cliched. I had three examples where it was used very well, but only one of the images loaded, so I can't demonstrate. I'll try again. But I wanted to show that despite the cliche, it can work

(I've noticed lots of problems with images not loading lately. Is it only me?)

edited to add -- I particularly like this partial woman cover:

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 19, 2020, 4:08am

>22 Nickelini: I had my first (very short) train journey in four months yesterday!

You occasionally get carriages with doors on one side only if they are only going to be used on a very specific route where all the platforms are on one side, e.g. the old Glasgow Subway before it was rebuilt in the 1980s, but carriages used on the network at large (and especially if they are crossing the whole of Europe!) need doors on both sides, because stations could have platforms on either side, and trains will normally use different platforms according to traffic requirements and direction of travel anyway (nowadays multiple exits are a safety requirement, but that might not have been so strict in the thirties). Sleeping cars often have doors at one end only, next to the steward's compartment.

>23 Nickelini: Amazon images and non-https images often seem to give problems.

heinäkuu 19, 2020, 5:47am

>20 thorold: Am I the only one who looks at the last Special mention and thinks of Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush?

heinäkuu 19, 2020, 6:23am

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 19, 2020, 8:39am

>26 thorold: As if the original wasn't enough of an earworm...

Here 's another one.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 19, 2020, 10:39am

>20 thorold: remind me never to put a picture of a train on my thread.

But I do understand how annoying it is when people are paid to design a cover for a book and they just use the first image grabbed from the internet.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 19, 2020, 1:12pm

The cover of Nicola Griffith's book, Hild, featured a young woman wearing chain mail, which was anachronistic and should serve as a warning for this highly speculative and revisionist treatment of the life of a generous, wise woman of great energy and faith--in herself, in others, and her God.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 19, 2020, 1:59pm

>28 baswood: In all fairness to publishers, I don’t imagine there’s much money to spare for design on reprints of Christie novels. They’ll be paying hefty royalties to the Christie estate, and they’re in competition with huge numbers of secondhand copies, library books, and probably pirated ebooks as well. And except for luxury editions, the punters probably don’t even look at the cover picture when they buy that kind of book.

And the author isn’t around to say “that isn’t what I meant”.

heinäkuu 19, 2020, 2:13pm

>20 thorold: That is an awesome collection! I have copies of the book with two of the covers you mentioned, at least one plausible. I absolutely dislike that use of red type--What were they thinking? I would have trouble seeing that.

heinäkuu 19, 2020, 4:13pm

I love some of the great artwork on hardcover novels of the 30s through the 60s. Also, one of the reasons I became attracted to collecting Modern Library publications is the high quality of the dust jacket artwork. Somehow, the high standards and representative nature of the art on NYRB publications seems to accurately convey the high standards of the imprint's curation, so I keep an eye out for those. Finally, am I a sucker for pulp fiction/pocketbook covers? Yes, I am.

heinäkuu 19, 2020, 6:07pm

Train journey story without a picture of a train.

heinäkuu 19, 2020, 6:52pm

Just going from the beginning of my LT library, alphabetically by title, here are a few covers that I consider interesting, fun and/or attractive. Most of them are paperbacks. These are only taken from pages 1-10 of my 157-page library, though. I'll scroll through and add a few more during the week:

heinäkuu 19, 2020, 10:57pm

>25 Dilara86:
Am I the only one who looks at the last Special mention and thinks of Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush?

Now that you mention it, I can't stop seeing it

heinäkuu 19, 2020, 11:01pm

>24 thorold:
Amazon images and non-https images often seem to give problems.

Thanks, I'll try to watch out for that.

I've found a different source for the main cover I wanted to show, and added it to >23 Nickelini:

heinäkuu 19, 2020, 11:08pm

I’m interested in art as much as I am in words, so I take a lot of enjoyment in aesthetically beautiful books, and I look for the most pleasing cover art I can find for any edition. I love being grabbed by a great cover, although it absolutely doesn’t make me buy a book I wouldn’t otherwise read.

I’m so interested in book covers that I have a Pinterst board dedicated to this. There are 1.1k images on book cover art that has delighted me on some level. If you’re interested:

There are simply too many to start posting the best.

In my threads of books read, I started including covers in 2012, and along with that, I always include a comment on the cover. I haven’t reviewed eight and a half years of data, but my feeling is that I don’t say super positive things about covers nearly often enough; I make a lot of “it’s fine” or “I like this element,” which equals about a 3.5/5 stars; and then a fair number of “ugh.” So I’d say most covers are somewhat “meh” even though I only want to read beautiful books.

The claim is that a book cover should convey genre, audience, tone, and suggest what the book is about all in a few seconds. Do you think most of them succeed?

Genre fiction is easy to pick out. Unfortunately, many books have a genre-like cover and don’t turn out to be that genre very much if at all. I think often publishers skimp on the cover, and the graphic artist usually hasn’t read the book, so there are a lot of generic covers on books that deserve better.
Also, I believe there are a lot of readers who love their particular type of book, and so they look for books that have “that look.” Pretty much most of genre fiction (including the mentioned & maligned bodice ripper). But these readers spend $$ on what they want and if the designer tries to be too creative, it might signal that it’s not the book they expect.

Are you likely to pick up a book off the library or bookstore shelves because of its cover?

Yes, but that doesn’t mean I’ll buy it. A fabulous cover cannot save a book I’m not interested in.

Are you attracted to certain kinds of covers (and is that because you are attracted to certain kinds of books?)

Looking at my >1100 book covers saved on Pinterest, I can’t tell you what it is that I like other than quality artwork, and I like that art to capture a moment, say something new, or have a different view of things. Maybe this can be covered by “evocative.”

I’m attracted to blue covers (but also green, and also red – I guess I’m drawn to colour used well. But really, blue covers, indigo in particular). I also like oceans & lakes, birds, castles, Medieval & Renaissance art, forests, umbrellas, ghosts, and fish & whales. But this list might be different tomorrow.

In the past 10 years there has been issues about how women (or parts of them) are portrayed on book covers

Indeed. The torso, the faceless woman, the woman walking away or from behind. I’ve read a lot of books with these covers, and some have been very good. Sometimes this cover can actually be done well. But, yes, it’s clichéd, no doubt.

Conversely, are you repelled by some covers?

Well, Europa Editions usually has terrible covers (I’ve noted several as “fuggly”). “Repelled”? I think if the context is appropriate, there isn’t anything currently published that I’d say I’m “repelled” by. That’s a strong word. If I can find some, I’ll post ugly covers under a different post.

other issues include authors having too much input into their own books' covers

I don’t know about this. Do tell!

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 19, 2020, 11:09pm

>18 RidgewayGirl:
Nothing to See Here – I don’t know anything about this book except that I love this cover

>3 cindydavid4:
I think I know the edition of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand that you’re referencing. I didn’t have that edition (why the publisher would make a more boring version I don’t know). I can’t remember why I had this book – I think the publisher sent it to me—I had no interest in it but I eventually read it and was so delighted. I expected it to be twee, but it wasn’t. It was lovely.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 20, 2020, 12:34am

Possibly related to this topic are book illustrations. Cover art is meant to sell the book, whereas illustration offers commentary, but there is overlap; an illustrated version says "this is an Important Book and a discerning reader such as yourself should buy it"

American lit students love Poe, and there are dozens of illustrated versions of his work. As part of the unit I asked students curate a slide show of illustrations for "The Black Cat" and discuss how they reflected and interpreted the work. No one made the gore and and terror of Poe look more beautiful than Harry Clarke.

Anyone interested in illustration as commentary might also want to check out Salvador Dali's drawings for Alice in Wonderland.

heinäkuu 20, 2020, 2:17am

Here's an article called:

Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2020 Book Preview

As you can guess from the title it shows many anticipated releases in the second half of 2020. Looking at the covers I can't see a pattern per se but there are definitely some that are attracting my eye more than others even if after a look at the blurb I realize I'm not interested in the book after all.

Personally I love being tempted by a good cover. It's so satisfying to think that the book I'm going to read could not only be a work of art in terms of its contents but also for its physical worth as well.

Or even if a book is one that I don't plan to read at all (like the umpteenth Hitler biography), I appreciate when the publisher has done something new and creative with the book. Being able to wade through a visually appealing selection of books in a bookstore is just as pleasurable as reading the blurbs.

Bad covers -- at least what I consider to be bad covers -- will certainly make me pause to think if I need the book after all. Kind of like encountering a book in only its hardback version, I'd rather just wait till the paperback comes out, or a new cover comes out. The unattractive cover on my copy of The Spire along with its inconvenient size is what led me to delay reading it for 10 years. Unfortunate because I enjoyed reading it this year.

I hated both the American and original Japanese cover to Convenience Store Woman which I even mentioned in my thread way back. The Japanese book I have no idea what's going on (a wall with things coming out of it?) and the American one looks like a book for easy Japanese recipes for the American housewife.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 20, 2020, 3:22am

>39 nohrt4me2: Yes, I was wondering about "illustration" as well. I have the feeling that, where it used to be the norm, especially for "popular fiction" and "classics" to get the cover artist to illustrate a key scene from the book, nowadays that's right out of fashion, and (good) cover art is more likely to try to tell you about the kind of mood and setting the book has than about something specific that happens in the story. I wonder why? Did they work out that illustrative covers are harder for the potential buyer to decode? Or is generic simply cheaper (you don't have to pay the artist's time for reading the book...)?

>40 lilisin: Golding was published by Fabers in the UK, they usually had really good covers for him. I remember this one:

Something we haven't talked about yet is relationships between authors and particular cover-artists. There are some authors you just can't imagine without covers in that particular style: Paul Sample's artwork for Tom Sharpe, for instance, or more recently Jeff Fisher for Louis de Bernières


Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 20, 2020, 12:26pm

>23 Nickelini: Oh, that is a nice one. I think it communicates more than one thing; the obvious 'bite me' but also a vulnerability....

Do you think the use of women's bodies (or parts thereof) on covers is because current fiction market is allegedly 80% women? Or something else? (I also note that the Guardian reports that the publishing industry is overwhelmingly white and female). I, personally, see it as overused. Now you have me thinking about men on covers....

These are the covers which have men (or in one case male teenager) pictured on the cover of a work of fiction from the first 21 pages of my library (or first 400 books, roughly). Not a lot considering how many male authors I read. It's an interesting study.

heinäkuu 20, 2020, 11:52am

>41 thorold: Re artists and writers: Ralph Stedman did the covers and illustrations for some of H.S. Thompson's books, notably Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the out of print Curse of Lono. Always thought his art worked perfectly with the text.

heinäkuu 20, 2020, 1:06pm

>39 nohrt4me2: I do love a book with good illustrations, although I have very few.

>40 lilisin: Thanks for the list of forthcoming. Not much there I'd be interested in (considering my backlog) but the Inheritors by Asako Serizawa looks interesting as do a couple others. The cover that most caught my eye though was the book with the black and white flowers...I would have picked that up and read the dust jacket.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 20, 2020, 4:28pm

>42 avaland: Your comments remind me of a bit in Loner, the novel I'm reading now, about how women's mouths in advertising are sexual - the one acceptable orifice to show, and men's mouths are informative.

In the case of book covers, though, my take is that the woman posed so that her face doesn't show is meant to allow the reader to imagine themselves as the woman in the illustration, indicating a book that has a sympathetic and even admirable main character. But also laziness, the way that one tree is on the cover of many of the novels set in Africa, whether or not it actually grows in the region depicted in the book.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 20, 2020, 9:40pm

I quite like Japanese book covers. Here is a collection of books on my "under consideration" pile, meaning books I'm thinking about buying.

They can get really creative and use a variety of styles: anime style, illustration, real life photos, etc.

Unfortunately the covers of the books I've already read (so little, still, need to fix that!) are so bland and boring. The top row is the best and interestingly enough those are books by lesser known, contemporary authors. While the other boring ones include Banana Yoshimoto, Haruki Murakami, and the horror writer Otsuichi.

heinäkuu 21, 2020, 11:52pm

>45 RidgewayGirl:
about how women's mouths in advertising are sexual - the one acceptable orifice to show,

I never thought about it like that. Makes sense. And this cover, which I already thought was terrific, is now even better:

heinäkuu 22, 2020, 6:03am

>45 RidgewayGirl: Good point! And an interesting observation about the African lit covers (and I know the tree covers you are talking about)

heinäkuu 22, 2020, 1:55pm

>48 avaland: So do I! But, surprisingly, I only seem to have two “tree on the horizon” covers out of 150 books related to “Africa “ in my library. I must be slipping up somewhere.


Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 22, 2020, 5:52pm

Check out the #1 Ladies Detective Agency mysteries, all set in Africa. I like the covers, most (but not all) of which lack trees.

heinäkuu 22, 2020, 8:12pm

>48 avaland:, >49 thorold:, >50 LadyoftheLodge: I just went through 121 books in my library tagged with "African authors" and came across 7 covers that contained a tree: 5 were photo-based, 2 art work.They seemed to be based on baobab or acacia trees. But thanks, it was a nice stroll thorough many books I enjoyed and it was really interesting to note how the covers might differ even though nearly all of what I have are from major publishers or small presses in the US, UK and Canada.

heinäkuu 23, 2020, 11:03am

>50 LadyoftheLodge: >51 avaland: To be fair, the tree-on-horizon cliché is hard to resist: I had a quick flick through my photos from a holiday in Tanzania 30 years ago, and at least 25% have a composition based on trees and/or giraffes on the skyline, quite often with a sunrise or sunset as well. Sausage trees (kigelia) feature nearly as often as baobab and acacia.

heinäkuu 24, 2020, 7:36am


Fiction abounds with retold and/or takes on classic myths, legends and fairy tales. Circe by Madeline Miller, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, by Salman Rushdie and Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan are just three of many.

Some of these books have become bestsellers. Do you enjoy such stories? Any kind specifically? Is there just the entertainment factor or do these books have something to say? Do you think these retellings are a more modern thing - a nostalgia of some kind?

As always, please include examples and recommendations for some of your best reading in this category.

heinäkuu 24, 2020, 8:54am

I have not read any of the books highlighted in question 31 as recently I have not been reading very much (hardly any) contemporary fiction, but in principle I would welcome the retelling of classic myths legends and fairy tales. Re-invention has always been a staple of fiction writing, and the stories that are re-invented are re-invented because they were good stories. A re-telling of classics has the big advantage of bringing them in to the milieu of modern readers who might then be tempted to read the original. From the contemporary authors perspective it does show a confidence in their own ability to make something from the classic stories that will appeal to the modern reader and will demonstrate that it was a worthwhile thing to do because of what they have added to the project.

A straightforward retelling of the classics using modern language really does not add anything to the original and can in careless hands just sound wrong and I do have an example to bring to the table:

Simon Armitage, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This is a translation of an English medieval poem and the original is difficult to read although not impossible. There have been other more literal translation than Armitages, but he wanted to recreate the poetry as well as emphasise the fast moving story. I thought he was largely successful, although there was the odd modernism that it was best to ignore like "The mother of all axes" when describing an axe that was bigger than anything seen at the time. Armitage managed in my opinion to recreate the poetry of the original which had been lost sight of by the more literal translations.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 24, 2020, 12:25pm

I read Anne Sexton's retelling of fairy tales in college and liked them. Transformations? I think her work has fallen out of favor because of her personal history.

I have been reading The Once and Future King, T.H. White's take on the Arthur legend, on and off for 50 years. Again, White has fallen out of favor because he was cruel to his falcons or something.

Also Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad falls in this category. I don't remember much about it other than that my reaction was "meh." Her The Robber Bride was loosely inspired by (but doesn't really resemble) the robber bridegroom stories. Devastating book. My husband became an Atwood fan after reading it, which kind of surprised me. Didn't think that would be his cuppa.

Didn't someone do a retake on The Trojan Women? Or am I just wishing someone would?

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 24, 2020, 12:48pm

Didn't someone do a retake on The Trojan Women?

I thought so, but the only novel Wikipedia lists under "modern adaptations" is Women of Owu by Femi Osofisan, which I haven't read. The rest are all updated stage plays. On the LT page for The Trojan Women there's a work-link to something called Those Trojan Girls (one copy, no reviews, but it's tagged "boarding-school").

I liked Christa Wolf's Kassandra, but that's more Oresteia than Trojan Women.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 24, 2020, 12:55pm

>56 thorold: Thanks for trying to help me. I just re-read The Trojan Women because of something else I read, which I mismembered as a full-blown retelling, and I wanted to refresh my memory.

Sometimes the library in my head bears little resemblance to reality. Possibly why I loved Zafon's Shadow of the Wind.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 24, 2020, 12:57pm

Oh, oh! The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin about the life of the BVM after the crucifixion. Loved it. OK, done hogging now.

heinäkuu 24, 2020, 1:04pm

According to my high school English teacher, Bernard Malamud's The Natural is a modern baseball retelling of Greek mythology with hubris as the fatal flaw. I am not talking about the horrendous movie version.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 24, 2020, 5:27pm

oh hell I had a list a mile long, clicked on 'others' to find name of author and came back to find all my message gone!!!!!!!!!


You managed to pick my favorite fiction tromp, what I like to call 'fractured fairy tales' but also includes, legends myths and bible stories

I first got hooked on these during my dungeons and dragons period and read Robert Asprin Myth Adventures series. The author asked other writers to add on to his story, and its a hoot. started finding more like it and well got hooked.

Gonna start with the bible stories because those are easier to remember*

*caveat - I don't post these to offend anyone, nor am I making any kind of statement about the bible. These are just interesting takes on well known stories. I liked each of these for differnt reasons, but most perhaps for their respect for the original texts and just darn good stories ymmv

Testament of Mary
the preservationist
Gospel of Jesus Christ Saramago
Diaries of Adam and Eve
not wanted on the voyage
only begotten daughter

Not a book, but a classic bill cosby routine called noah. Yes, the man is horrible, but honestly his early work was hysterical

stay tuned for more

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 24, 2020, 5:28pm

Ok part II stories and legends

Kissing the Witch
book of lost things
song of achilles
mirror mirror
confessions of an ugly stepsister
hag seed
serpent of venice
a snow queen and other stories
mists of avalon yes another author with rumors swirling around her, but I cannot forget how much this book affected me, how many times I read it, and gave me a whole new understanding of Once and Future King

do takes on historic events count? Like Wolf Hall?

heinäkuu 24, 2020, 1:43pm

>53 avaland: Do you think these retellings are a more modern thing - a nostalgia of some kind?

Well lets see, Grimms Fairytales was a collection of stories much older with lots of different variations, the story of Hamlet is from a much earlier story in fact there is a new one out called hamnet by one of my favorite writers Maggie O'Farrell, and Shakespeare plays have been rewritten and reinterpreted for 400 years. So no, its not a modern thing at all; its people making stories meaningful to them, or changing them because well everyone loves a good story!

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 24, 2020, 4:14pm

>54 baswood: Well said, Barry! Thanks!

>55 nohrt4me2: I think The Penelopiad was part of a series of re-tellings, although I can't now remember the publisher doing them (perhaps someone has already pointed this out; I haven't been through all the responses yet)

Also, a quick search brings up Pat Barker's The Silence of the Girls as a possible re-telling of The Trojan Women.

>61 cindydavid4: I don't think Golding's The Princess Bride, which is much honored in my family, is a re-telling of any classic fairy tale or legend. We are not necessarily speaking of stories that seem like, or are, modern fairy tales, legend-like...etc so much as stories actually based on, and or identifiable as re-tellings of old myths and legends, ancient classics, and classic fairy tales by such as the Grimm Bros, Hans Christian Anderson, Charles Perrault...etc.

I think books based on historic events are likely in a different category. I perhaps should have elaborated more, but I was a bit short on time this morning.

heinäkuu 24, 2020, 5:22pm

>64I think you are referring to Random House as part of its Hogarth Shakespeare series. and include
The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson – a retelling of The Winter's Tale3
Shylock is My Name by Howard Jacobson – an interpretation of The Merchant of Venice4
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler – a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew5
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood – a re-imagining of The Tempest6
Macbeth by Jo Nesbø – a retelling of Shakespeare's Macbeth7
Dunbar by Edward St Aubyn – which re-tells the story of King Lear'8
New Boy by Tracy Chevalier – a re-imagining of Othello9 and apparently a new take on Hamlet by Gillian Flynn, to be published on 2021

oh no you are right about that being in a dif category; in fact I wondered about bible stories as well. I can remove those and save for another time

I included Princess Bride, and would also have included Games of Thrones just because they were written with a wink and a nod about fairy tales and history. I can take it off if you'd like

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 24, 2020, 5:38pm

Countless books make use of the archetypes of folklore and mythology to greater and lesser degrees. I'm reading Empire of Wild now, by Métis author Cherie Dimaline, and along with the mentions of the rougarou, the main character is named Joan, from Arcand.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 24, 2020, 7:10pm


While I appreciate a good cover, I don't really think they influence me too much, unless it's negatively. There was a trend that started maybe 20 years ago with historical novels: women with their heads cut off. I think Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl my have started this. Since most of the protagonists were women who found a way to empower themselves, this seemed like an odd portrayal. Maybe they figured that if there was no face, the reader would picture herself as the heroine? Lately it has moved to women with their backs turned; even more recently it seems to be women standing in doorways or windows with their backs turned. There is a male counterpart: bare-chested well-muscled men with their heads cut off. I just don't understand this trend at all.

But here are some covers that I really love.

I bought the entire Everyman series of Jane Austen's, first, because I had no hardback copies, and second, because I love the covers. I also bought all of the first cloth covered Virago Modern Classic, although not all of them appealed to me and I have since given away a few.

heinäkuu 24, 2020, 7:37pm

this is apparently a series black swan white raven Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

heinäkuu 24, 2020, 10:33pm

Q 31

I adore fairy tales, fractured fairy tales, and retellings. I lump in ancient mythology with this. Here are two that come to mind:

Bear by Marian Engel, in part a retelling of "Snow-white & Rose-red"

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips - Greek gods let loose in modern London

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 25, 2020, 1:29am

>69 Nickelini: It's been done before (in 1931, and in America)...

...does that make it a retelling of Thorne Smith?

heinäkuu 25, 2020, 2:52am

I really like Helen Oyeyemi's work. She wrote Mr Fox that explores the fox folk tale archetype and Blue Beard, Boy, Snow, Bird, which echos Snow White. I haven't read Gingerbread, but I bet it's also inspired by fairy tales.

heinäkuu 25, 2020, 5:44am

>71 Dilara86: I was just thinking about Oyeyemi's work. I read her early work but am very much behind.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 25, 2020, 6:54am

I have enjoyed many books that are retellings on one level or another of fairy tales and legends. I have had less exposure to classic mythology so perhaps that is why I am not drawn to those retellings (except for Frankenstein being loosely based on the Prometheus legend), Ursula LeGuin's Lavinia, and apparently Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing and Salvage the Bones are allusions to the Medea myth. There is probably more than I've not picked up on.

Two of my trinity of favorite and sacred modern authors have retold fairly tales, myths...etc. Angela Carter might be the queen of this (ah, Angela, you left us too early!) Her short story collection The Bloody Chamber & Other Stories contains re-tellings of Bluebeard, The Snow Child, Beauty & the Beast, Sleeping Beauty and Red Riding Hood (off the top of my head). Carter was particularly attached to Charles Perrault's tales. Margaret Atwood, as noted earlier by nohrt4me2, wrote Penelopiad the twist on the Robber Bridegroom with her The Robber Bride but she also wrote the title short story in Bluebeard's Egg and Other Stories. The third in in trinity, Joyce Carol Oates, swims in the Gothic and one would think there would be some obviously re-tellings there (and there are, but of a different kind), but there has been suggestions that her Little Bird of Heaven might be a re-telling of Beauty and the Beast.

Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels (Snow White and Rose Red), an adult book, is excellent. Quite a bit of Lanagan's excellent short fiction, which is aimed at the YA market, has the feel of fairy tales (start with her collection, Black Juice.
Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child (Russian tale?)
Nalo Hopkinson's Midnight Robber (Caribbean tale)
Eudora Welty's The Robber Bridegroom
Juliet Marillier's Daughter of the Forest (the six swans) this is a recommendation from my 37 year old daughter, who loved this book back in 1999.

I add that my all-time favorite fairy tale, from the time I read it around 10 or 11, is Bluebeard. First read in a volume of Grimm's tales that had been my mothers. Mesmerizing and, so good.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 25, 2020, 7:16am

Several stories in Pricksongs and Descants deconstruct or otherwise toy with fairy tales and biblical stories.

Indigo is a re-framing of The Tempest and, apparently there are dozens of versions of Antigone, but I am looking forward to Home Fire. Faust and/or Mephistopheles appear in many, many forms; my favorite is Doctor Faustus. There are probably waaaaay to many Cain & Abel stories out there to count, but the one I loved is East of Eden.

heinäkuu 25, 2020, 6:57am

>67 Cariola: Why does that cover of the headless man not appeal to me? Perhaps if he was holding a book....

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 25, 2020, 9:44am

Late to the party as usual, so I'm going to do two at once.

I totally use covers as shorthand for what I want to order when I'm looking at galleys—along with the more informative biblio matter like blurbs, author info, and publishers' matter, of course. But when I'm scrolling through a site or catalog with dozens of little thumbnail covers, definitely. HOW I make those decisions is pretty intuitive and hard to explain—like they say about p0rn, I know it when I see it. I don't like genre of a certain type (no judgments, just my own tastes) so I stay away from covers with realistic depictions of people or settings or both. Ditto pop/"women's" fiction, so I tend to pass up books with cover illustrations in that flat-color, slightly cartoony style. And I'm sorry, but the general rule of thumb that anything self-published or out of a tiny/university press that has an ugly or amateurish-looking cover has probably been given similarly short shrift to its editing or quality in general.

There are always exceptions, of course, and I'll go for an author I like or a recommendation from someone whose taste I trust over any graphics, and I'll definitely revisit something I passed up if I hear a good reason otherwise. It's a complicated personal algorithm—for instance, picked up Marcy Dermansky's Very Nice when it came out with this cover, both because I heard good things about it and I know her a little:

but I would have been more resistant to this later-edition cover, although if you look closely there's a little irony to the artwork—but if I were just scrolling down a bunch of thumbnails, I'd probably have missed it:

Scrolling through my recent picks, it looks like I mainly go for covers that are type-heavy, maybe with a single non-literal image. That seems to square up with a lot of what I see liked here by folks who have similar taste to mine.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 25, 2020, 9:33am

I haven't read a ton of these, but remember loving Angela Carter when I read her in college and my early 20s. So subversive and sly! I wonder what I'd think if I revisited her now.

Two that I've read recently that come to mind are Saša Stanišic's Before the Feast and Madeline Miller's Circe, both of which I loved. Before the Feast riffs on East German folk tales (in my review I called it "kind of like Grimms Fairy Tales meets Wisconsin Death Trip meets Samuel Beckett meets a DDR Spoon River Anthology"—wow am I glad I write this stuff down when I first read a book, because I'd never remember that association now. And, speaking of the previous topic, I picked it up with absolutely no prior knowledge of the author or plot, based 100% on that cover:

Circe I adored because of how Miller really got inside the story, and thought not only about the characters' backstories but motivations, conflicts, inconsistencies, entanglements, nuances, and scars. That's surely the point for anyone who studies classics, but she's done the writer's work as well to give it all a solid armature of plot and narrative arc that's not always there when you get them piecemeal, as most of us have done. And she writes so well.

Oh, and also Rebecca Solnit's Cinderella Liberator, a contemporary, feminist retelling of the Cinderella story. I also liked it a lot, though I bet it would have been even better reading it to a kid in the 8-12ish age group and talking about it. I love how Solnit brought in the classic Arthur Rackham silhouette illustrations from the original, though.

I'd definitely be down for reading more along these lines if the contemporary author brings something new to the story and doesn't just retell it in modern language. And if it's written beautifully—even the most interesting retelling isn't going to save uninteresting writing for me.

heinäkuu 25, 2020, 11:06am

>69 Nickelini: oh my gawd!!! Love those

>71 Dilara86: I have heard of her before but never associated her writing with fairy tales! Great, another bunch of books I should read!!

heinäkuu 25, 2020, 11:10am

>71 Dilara86: not sure about the story but I adore this cover!

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 25, 2020, 11:19am

>73 avaland: Ill have to check those out I like dark stories, but tend to scare easily.but if they are fairy tales I can just pretend its all make believe, or is it? bwa hahaha

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 25, 2020, 11:56am

>73 avaland: I know I have Lavinia and Bluebeards Egg on my shelf, have read the first ages ago, not the second and Im a huge Atwood fan.

>74 ELiz_M: Oh I forgot East of Eden! Its been decades, need to do a reread!

and need to read those versions of Antigone. The play is the first one i have a memory of seeing (my sis in the lead) at about 6. Got me turned on to Greek myths, still love the story......oh wait, I thought theyd be titles. Ok off th google!

ETA just found Jocastas Children

heinäkuu 25, 2020, 11:43am

>77 lisapeet: Love Solnit so will have to read that, esp because you had me at I love how Solnit brought in the classic Arthur Rackham silhouette illustrations from the original, though.

heinäkuu 25, 2020, 11:47am

whew, this has been so much fun finding new (to me) to read!!!

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 25, 2020, 12:18pm

>81 cindydavid4: Not all are actual retellings (some just appear to be different translations) and some may not have English translations, but goodreads has a list of 43 works/retellings of Antigone:

ETA: which Antigone play -- Sophocles or Anouilh?

heinäkuu 25, 2020, 1:47pm

>67 Cariola: I just had to respond about the Jane Austen covers. I love those and also ordered them because of the beautiful covers, as if I needed more copies of Jane Austen.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 25, 2020, 5:12pm

>85 LadyoftheLodge: They are so appropriate, too!

One more word on covers: I really prefer Persephone Classics' original dove grey covers to the flashier full color ones they decided to move to.

heinäkuu 25, 2020, 8:08pm

>84 ELiz_M: oh gosh, I have no idea (I was 6 at the time!) Ill have to ask my sis, but I remember reading it in HS and it was the Anouilhs version. I did see those listings and yeah mose of them are retellings. However I did see Jocastas Children

heinäkuu 26, 2020, 7:49pm

>86 Cariola: I agree about the Persephones. The website justifies the new covers as "... more 'bookshop-friendly editions' " with only twelve of their titles, their bestsellers, published that way.

I think the rest of their catalogue is still published in the grey covers with endpapers.

On another note, I was wondering who would post the cover of The Children's Book, which was what leapt to mind on first reading the question. Glad to see it finally made it.

heinäkuu 26, 2020, 9:19pm

>88 SassyLassy: It's probably my all-time favorite cover--so beautiful.

heinäkuu 26, 2020, 9:30pm

>84 ELiz_M: Ok, my sister's HS production of Antigone was of the Anouili. She also told me that the play was written during the French occupation, and was in part a message to the resistance/ Somehow the germans did n't get it so it was never banned And she said there is a new version of it that takes a latinx turn by David Mamet, but I can't find it right now.

Another play that we did in HS was Mourning becomes Electra by Eugene Oniel. based on Oresteia by Aeschylus.

Which reminds me Sondheims Into the Woods is a retelling of several fairy tales including red reiding hood, Jack in the Beanstalk, Rapanzel and Cinderella.

heinäkuu 27, 2020, 11:54am

If I may go back to the covers question. Saturn's Children by Charles Stross is a science fiction novel set in a future solar system populated by intelligent robots of various sorts. The protagonist was built to be a courtesan/companion for humans - and she has a problem, since humans became extinct the year before she came off the assembly line, last of her type. Lois and I spent a little extra to get the British hardcover edition, with this cover:

That generic spaceship sort of thing is actually accurate to the locale in chapter one.

The American cover, on the other hand, is why we wanted that British edition:

Matters here are even worse than they appear. That's not a painting; Tor books hired someone at Pixar to create a 3D character and then do a render. Also, the image wraps around to the back of the book, but I'll spare you. See here and here for Stross's tale of why he couldn't prevent that cover. Comment number 20 under the second link is where he reveals the Pixar connection.

heinäkuu 27, 2020, 3:17pm

>91 dukedom_enough: Yes, I'd pay extra for the imported version as well. Stross's explanation was very good. The American cover leans hard into the idea that only men read science fiction, which we all know is false, any more than only women read romance or only teenagers read YA.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 27, 2020, 5:27pm

>92 RidgewayGirl: >91 dukedom_enough: At least her head's not cut off.

heinäkuu 27, 2020, 6:09pm

>93 nohrt4me2: Sure. And her breasts could be larger.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 27, 2020, 8:46pm

>94 RidgewayGirl: I guess they didn't want to objectify her. Ha.

I like how she's holding out the similarly shaped power orb (or whatever it is) as some kind of invitation to the onlooker to grasp and dominate.

I find Stross's apology for the cover a bit ingenuous. The man wrote, I gather from the reviews, a rather steamy space thriller about a manufactured female sex bot. Then he's surprised when they put one on the cover?

heinäkuu 28, 2020, 5:55am

>92 RidgewayGirl: I speculate that it could be slightly more nuanced in that 'only men read Charles Stross' (but then, perhaps I'm being optimistic). What? you didn't notice the lovely necklace she's wearing?

heinäkuu 28, 2020, 6:50am

>91 dukedom_enough: That angled text is almost worse than the sexbot!

heinäkuu 28, 2020, 4:21pm


I love retellings of fairy tales and other familiar stories! I think that riffing on stories we already have sitting in our brains can give good writers the opportunity to do all kinds of interesting things, whether it's showing us new aspects or giving us new interpretations of stories we thought we already knew, or just having a little fun playing around with rearranging the literary building blocks of our childhoods.

I'm currently four books into Chris Colfer's Land of Stories kids' series (The Wishing Spell and sequels), which, while they're a bit uneven, play around with fairy tales and other classic children's stories in some fairly entertaining ways.

The best fairy tale inspired book I've read in recent memory, though, is Spinning Silver by Naomi Novak. This isn't a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, but it is in many ways inspired by it, along with some other fairy tale and fantasy tropes, and it's absolutely fantastic.

And this post has reminded me, once again, that I really, really, really need to get around to reading Circe. Because I read The Song of Achilles a while back and, damn, was that good.

heinäkuu 28, 2020, 5:58pm

gosh I wish I could get into Novaks work better, I need to try that one

Oh reading Achilles first then Circe, I suspect you are going yo need to read the other again, because so much fits together. At leaast thats the way it was with me, reading Circe gave me names and backgrounds to put together that I needed in Achille

thanks for the rec on Chris Colgers Ill have to check that out (this thread as well as the global reading one is making my list of books to check out horrendously long....

heinäkuu 28, 2020, 8:52pm

>99 cindydavid4: I have read The Iliad and The Odyssey, which I imagine helps, although it's been quite a while. (Well, I did read a rather nice graphic novel adaptation of The Iliad more recently, and that definitely helped with Song of Achilles.)

The Chris Colfer books are definitely aimed at kids, so don't expect adult sophistication from them or anything, but taken on their own terms, they are fairly fun!

And, boy, do I hear you about the horrendously long recommendations list. My own wishlist is currently in the quadruple digits. Eep!

heinäkuu 29, 2020, 4:07am

I miss LT for a week and I'm 100 answers behind on this thread?!!!

Going back to Q30...

I'm not overly influenced by book covers as I tend to go book shopping with authors I'm interested in mind, or, for very new books, with reviews from the press or LT in mind. If I really want to pick up a certain title, a bad cover won't put me off (although a dirty one will, if it's secondhand).

I'm more likely to be put off by a bad cover than I am attracted to a novel because of a good cover. Font and jacket paper can be very off-putting for me. I hate super glossy covers on novels, but love a nice soft touch matte cover. I also can't bear the current trend of covers for crime novels - all those big shouty uppercase fonts in garish colours against a black background put me right off. For instance:


I also avoid mass-market fiction that has that "fun" type of font on the cover. It makes me assume (often wrongly) that the book's designed for a very low average IQ and will be pretty rubbish.

I think it's impossible to compare book covers from the mid 20th century up to the early 1990s with very modern book covers. Fonts and styles have changed considerably - just look at the web site styles that are in vogue now compared with even 10 years ago.

They don't come up very often, but it's great when you get a cheeky cover that makes you smile. This one from Tampa is so perfect for the book given it's content and tongue-in-cheek style:

heinäkuu 29, 2020, 5:43am

>101 AlisonY: Oh, that is a cheeky cover! And I immediately want to know what it's about!

Agree with rubbish mass market crime novel covers. I read Rankin in hardcover which is marginally better (at least the US cover was, surprisingly).

heinäkuu 29, 2020, 7:00am

>102 avaland: I love that Tampa cover, and it’s ingeniously perfect for the subject matter without being in any way literal.

Also agreed in clever fonts, though if they’re part of a very graphic treatment on a trade or especially indie press book they’re OK—again, I know it when I see it.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 29, 2020, 3:13pm

I'm posting this TWO days early....but I will resume the regular Friday next week.

I'm working on some deeper questions, but they are not quite ready yet, so how about something reasonably light this week? This is an question inspired from one that that thorold/Mark mentioned to me quite some time ago. I’ve adapted it for a broader readership.


You are being asked to adapt a favorite novel (or two) for the screen (television or movies). What book would it be? Who would you cast for the main characters? Would you change the setting? (i.e. move it from, say, China to the UK…kind of like a Kenneth Branagh does Wallander) Or perhaps you’d like to change the time period? Are there any scenes you’d definitely throw out, or ones you might add? Is it going to be one program, a limited series or a 2-hr movie?

And in keeping with Mark’s original idea, you may also produce an adaptation of your favorite Shakespearian drama or another play, if you prefer (or both!)

Note: You are allowed to use actors who are dead or alive, or people who are not professional actors (i.e. politicians, musicians, sports figures). Now, go out there and have fun!!

heinäkuu 30, 2020, 9:05am


I do pick books off shelves in bookstores and libraries based on covers, though I never buy, and rarely borrow, based on the cover alone. Rather, when browsing (as opposed to looking for something specific), I rely on covers, and also on titles and If You Like Book Title/Author/TV Show/Movie type displays, to guide me toward what to look closer at. From there, the summary tells me whether a book is something I'm actually interested in reading.

A bookstore or library has too many books, even within individual sections, for me to look at each individual one when making a decision. After all, a bookstore is only open so many hours, and libraries even fewer. And much as I'd like to spend an entire eight hour day or longer browsing bookshelves, I have too much else to do to indulge myself that way.

Within broader genres like mystery, or speculative fiction (usually shelved in stores all together under scifi/fantasy), I have preferences as to which of the narrower, smaller genres I'm actually interested in: cozies vs thrillers vs detective vs police procedural, or urban fantasy vs secondary world fantasy vs hard sci fi vs space opera, etc. In situations where these are all shelved together and organized only by author's last name, as in stores like Barnes & Noble, and Border's, back in its day, covers are one quick, and often pretty reliable, way to pick out the books in the genres I'm actually interested in.

Online browsing is entirely different, and I usually rely on themed lists and recommendations and such online rather than covers, because I'm not browsing actual shelves.

I am 100% repelled by some covers, though I have on occasion been intrigued enough by a story to pick one up anyway: I don't like the bad photoshop cover trend. If it looks like something someone with no training could do on their laptop at home, I'm not into it.

An example is the covers for Tamora Pierce's Bekka Cooper novels:

The first is one of the less egregious ones, and I picked it up anyway because I've always loved Tamora Pierce. I'm glad I did, because I really enjoyed it, and I read both of the sequels and enjoyed those, too. But the cover hurts me. And the second two are even worse.

The now-standard covers for Jim Butcher's Dresden Files books are awful, too. The covers on the early mass markets were nothing special, but the covers they use now cause me physical pain when I buy them, which I keep doing anyway because I love the books and collect the series:

The early covers (I actually kind of like the one for Fool Moon, but again, nothing special, really.):

And the current, terrible covers:

A set of covers I absolutely love, on the other hand, are those for Julie Kenner's Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom series, which are fabulous:

The covers convey the fun, lighthearted tone of the books, the suburban setting, and the demons-interrupting-regular-life plots. And the art is beautiful and fun itself. No stock images manipulated in a computer program here. I can't say for sure if the covers are what drew me to these, because I bought them so long ago I don't actually remember doing it, but I'd say it's pretty likely, almost a certainty.

Another book whose cover I really appreciate is Amy Meyerson's debut novel, The bookshop of Yesterdays:

A beautiful pile of books, none identical, some with bound bookmarks to make things interesting, colorful but not overwhelming, with easy to read text centered and then down a natural path for the eye. No extra clutter to confuse things. Simple, not overly cluttered but not overly minimalist or cold, as warm and inviting rather as the bookshop setting. I love it. And the actual book has a beautiful texture and feel to it, too.

As for the headless woman thing, for me it depends on how it's done, whether the woman is objectified, and the rest of the cover. C. E. Murphy's Urban Shaman books almost all feature headless women, but I was drawn toward the first one, Urban Shaman, if memory serves (this was a long time ago, too,) because the woman looked strong and interesting and I wanted to know her, and the title told me the subject matter might be up my alley, which it turned out it was.

I bought the rest because I enjoyed the first one and wanted to continue the series, but I also don't hate the covers. I don't love them like some others, but they don't bother me, either.

heinäkuu 30, 2020, 11:05am

Just a controlfreak suggestion:

Could Questions for the Avid Reader be posted on separate threads to keep conversations on topic?

Or maybe book covers could be its own standing topic, since it's popular?

When too many off-topic posts start to appear, you have to scroll back up to the weekly question to remember what it is. And some good questions get short shrift or totally derailed.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 30, 2020, 12:45pm

Question 32 - Movies

The first book that comes to mind for me is Every Man Dies Alone, a chilling novel about life in Berlin during World War 2 written by Hans Fallada, who was there. An older couple, upset by the combat death of their only son during the German invasion of France, begins performing small acts of defiance against the Nazi regime. The atmosphere of the book is extremely claustrophobic, full of detail about life in that time and place . I am picturing Laurence Olivier as the husband, Otto Quangel (picture the evil dentist in the Marathon Man, but now make him kindly yet oppressed and terrified). The wife, Anna, will be played by Kate Blanchett, because it's my movie. The subversive act is simple: the couple starts leaving postcards around Berlin urging people to resist. Lee Marvin will play Inspector Escherich, charged with finding the perpetrators of this defiant act.

And speaking of Lee Marvin, when they start making movies of the late Philip Kerr's "Bernie Gunther" Berlin Noir series, Marvin can play Gunther, too.

ETA: Or Bruno Ganz as Otto Quangel.

heinäkuu 30, 2020, 12:31pm

Question 32

This reminds me of a bookmark I just received in a Book Depository order:

Hard to read but it says:

You hate it when books get turned into blockbusters:

panel 1: "No! That's completely out of character".

panel 2: "That was never his motivation - this is all wrong!"

Panel 3 "Now Showing: The Very Hungry Caterpillar Attacks New York"

heinäkuu 30, 2020, 1:21pm

>106 nohrt4me2: That is true about some questions getting the short shriff. It would be much neater of course to have one question, one thread; but holy moly, that's a lot of threads (I've been doing a question a week). And I hesitate closing off the discussion of other recent questions after a week. And it isn't always easy to predict which question will get the higher responses either. But, if enough people would prefer the individual threads, I am happy to accommodate.

For those who star threads and then only go to their page of "starred threads" they would likely miss continuously new threads, right?

I'm sorry to add yet another question, but what say all you regulars to the idea of separate threads for each question?

heinäkuu 30, 2020, 1:34pm

>109 avaland: One member, one vote: I'm fine as is.

heinäkuu 30, 2020, 2:21pm

>109 avaland: I’m not sure multiple threads will work. Meanwhile this thread is generating so much talk, i was 60 plus messages behind. So , I think Im fine as is

Missed a few questions and skipping some

Q31 - retellings of classic myths, legends and fairy tales

Just want to add, to all that above, that I’m not a huge fan of retellings. I do read them. But much prefer referencing the stories for meaning. That provides the contexts and re-contectualizng, the layered meaning, and avoids all the skepticism a retellings brings up for me.

Q32 - i used to imagine all books I read in movie form and how it could be done. (Making any actual movies terribly disappointing). But I don’t seem to be doing this lately. (also I’m much more forgiving these days). So, I don’t have a good answer. Maybe I’ll think on it more.

heinäkuu 30, 2020, 2:51pm

Q32 (bis) I’d vote against separate threads (because of the star problem). No objection to a standing covers thread, though.

Q32 The germ of this question came out of this review of Shakespeare in a divided America (I haven’t read the book), which mentions in passing that the young Ulysses S Grant once played Desdemona:

... Fascinating though that is, I don’t think it really takes us anywhere useful. I don’t really want to see Bojo playing Falstaff, apt though it might be.

As for adaptations, I’m still hoping to see one day Richard Wagner’s neglected version of Pig Hoo-o-o-o-ey!, with Hans Hotter as Lord Emsworth and Birgit Nilsson as Lady Constance (not forgetting Elisabeth Schwarzkopf as the Empress). Unfortunately it’s nearly five hours long and presents considerable technical difficulties in staging, especially in the last act where the River Severn rises to flood the pigsty...

In complete contrast, there’s Buster Keaton’s seven-and-a-half-minute film version of James Joyce’s Ulysses (in which he plays all three main parts).

One I’m not holding my breath for is Mel Gibson’s remake of How green was my valley, in which he plays Owain Glyndŵr (in a leather kilt), Richard Burton plays David Lloyd-George, and Meryl Streep has a cameo as Queen Victoria...

heinäkuu 30, 2020, 3:21pm

>109 avaland: Thanks for considering it, anyway.

FWIW, I get notification of all new threads. Some of the questions I would keep in my "active" list, and some I would read and then pitch into the inactive list if I'm not interested in them.

However, this appears to be my personal problem. Cheers!

heinäkuu 30, 2020, 5:16pm

>113 nohrt4me2: I do know what you mean, but by now Im used to reading off topic posts on the new question. Most people are helpful by putting the number of their question in front of their post Then I just continue on with the new question. .. So I do prefer this way, coz the other will cause people to have to hunt and peck to find all of the diferent posts

>30 thorold: And speaking of, re covers: I appreciate clever ones, or beautifully designed or artistic ones (esp from small print publishers) but I rarely choose a book based on a cover, or reject one as well.

As far as adaptation - I can think of books I'd like to see as a movie, but I am horrible about actor names and faces and often clueless who might be good where (Except for News of the World, when I just knew Tom Hanks would be perfect for the part) So Ill just watch what you all come up with !

heinäkuu 31, 2020, 12:23am


Not a very famous book, but one I just finished reading and enjoyed: The Gate of Angels by Penelope Fitzgerald. It seems like the perfect story for a movie, but as far as I can tell there isn't one.

I don't have any actors in mind, but I can see the opening sequence being the bicycle crash in Cambridge of Daisy & Fred (our heroine & hero, who at this point are unknown to each other). Next scene they are unconscious after the crash and wake up in the same bed, courtesy of the family who rescued them and live nearby. Then we have flashbacks to fill in Fred's and Daisy's lives up to the crash, and how they came to be on the same road at the same time.

If anybody knows this book and would like to suggest actors, please do! Or if there has been a movie or TV adaptation, please let me know.

heinäkuu 31, 2020, 12:42am

>115 kac522: Yes! That would have to be a Merchant-Ivory film from the eighties, wouldn’t it? People like Hugh Grant, Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson— maybe Anthony Hopkins as M R James?

heinäkuu 31, 2020, 2:45am

Tämä käyttäjä on poistettu roskaamisen vuoksi.

heinäkuu 31, 2020, 6:18am

Question 32: Adaptations: OK, I'll take a stab at this:

A favorite book and perhaps my most reread book outside of classics: The Idea of Perfection by Kate Greenville

Theme: "An arch is two weaknesses which together make a strength.". . . Leonardo da Vinci
Winner of the 2001 Orange Prize.

Synopsis from the author's webpage (ooo, the author has a new book!) for those unfamiliar The Idea of Perfection (1999) is about two people who seem the least likely in the world to fall in love. Douglas Cheeseman is an awkward engineer, the sort of divorced man you’d never look at twice. Harley Savage is a big, plain, abrasive woman who’s been through three husbands and doesn’t want another. Both of them bring all kinds of unhappy baggage to their meeting in the little town of Karakarook, New South Wales, population 1,374.
Being in Karakarook is something of a voyage of discovery for both of them. Unlike Felicity Porcelline, a woman dangerously haunted by the idea of perfection, they come to understand that what looks like weakness can be the best kind of strength.

Keep it set in Australia, can be contemporary. But it would be fun to set it in the US midwest

1. Douglas Chessman: shy bridge engineer with large ears and acrophobia: a middle-aged Martin Clunes
2. Harley Savage: motorcycle-riding fabric artist & museum curator (part-time), tall, plain, abrasive: Toni Colette would be perfect if they filmed her to look taller. Otherwise, Gwendolyn Christine (who played Brianne of Tarth in Game of Thrones) would be great.
3. Felicity Porcelline: Housewife and former hand model; pretty, perfect, a bit neurotic: A younger Nicole Kidman.

(and yes, I have played with this in my head before)

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 31, 2020, 7:16am

There's this book that I loved and always thought it should be a movie - but the only image I have in my head is a storage room filled items the owner has stolen, aranged in spirals and curves of all colors. Shes a little strange. Any ideas? probably from the last decade.

heinäkuu 31, 2020, 7:56am

Sounds like Myla Goldberg's Bee Season, which was made into a film.

I'm still thinking on my answer. I don't watch a ton of movie versions of books and don't do TV at all, so I don't generally think along those lines, but let me see if I come up with anything.

My husband's claim to fame in this category is that after he read Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men when it first came out, he said "This reads like he intended it to be a film, and it should be—and they should get Tommy Lee Jones for the sheriff."

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 31, 2020, 11:19am

ding ding ding, yes we have a winner! Thanks! I knew that was a movie, never saw it tho. Have you read anything else by her?

Ya know, Id actually attempt to watch that movie if he were in it!

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 31, 2020, 1:24pm

I thought I'd try the "random book" thing to suggest improbable books for adaptation.

1. A kind of loving — done, and done very well, by John Schlesinger. I saw it quite recently
2. The man in the wooden hat — I don't think that's been done, could be interesting (as a miniseries for the trilogy). All the Famous British Actors of the Midsomer Murders generation could have parts.
3. Zomerhitte by Jan Wolkers — it's been done
4. Some Versions of Pastoral by William Empson — now, that would be a challenge to sex up! Empson did have a very Millennial sort of beard, you could probably get some sexy young actor to play him...
5. Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) — no, I think that's got to be a non-starter. Even if you could get Dame Judy to play the voice of Rule 13, I don't see how it would fill cinemas...

heinäkuu 31, 2020, 2:58pm

>116 thorold: Oh yeah, I can definitely see Anthony Hopkins as Professor Matthews (the M R James character). It would make such a great movie, especially with the ghost story. What's not to like?

heinäkuu 31, 2020, 9:59pm

>121 cindydavid4: I've read a few of Myla Goldberg's books, although not Bee Season. My favorite is her newest, Feast Your Eyes, about a woman who carved out a life for herself as a photographer and a mother, at a time when choosing to actively pursue art as a woman was frowned on.

elokuu 1, 2020, 12:40pm

Questio 32 just saw this and it looks fascinating Redemption in Indigo a take on a Sengalese folk tale. Anyone read it?

elokuu 1, 2020, 3:52pm

Question 31

I'm going with Wuthering Heights which needs a new film treatment.

Heathcliff would be played by the young and older Stellan Skarsgård, as no one broods better than he.

Catherine Earnshaw needs to be played by someone who can appear innocent with a suggestion of the wanton, so a young Vivien Leigh.

Edgar Linton is somewhat underwhelming and insipid, but appears cultured, so how about Jude Law?

The housekeeper Ellen/Nelly - none other than Judi Duench.

Lockwood, the new owner, would be played by Ewan McGregor, who can be credulous or firm as required.


Ewen McGregor makes me think of the MacGregor, so how about Rob Roy?

The title role would go to none other than Gerard Butler.

Despite the incomparable Jessica Lange in the 1995 film (not based on the book), Mary should be someone who can actually speak with a Scottish accent, so how about Kelly MacDonald?

John Hurt and Tim Roth could reprise their roles as Montrose and a fictional Cunningham from the 1995 film version.

The somewhat hapless Osbaldistone (omitted in the 1995 film) would be played by a younger David Tennant.


Either one of these novels could be transported to the mountains of Spain and filmed in Spanish with Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 1, 2020, 4:26pm

>126 SassyLassy: I don’t think John Laurie was ever in a Rob Roy adaptation, but he’d be great as Baillie Nicol Jarvie.

Another sadly neglected classic that would benefit from a new version is A Christmas Carol (Wikipedia currently lists fewer than fifty film and TV versions). I’d have liked to see Derek Jarman’s version, filmed in a garage in Islington, and starring Tilda Swinton as Scrooge, Jimmy Somerville as Bob Cratchit, and Gielgud, Guinness and McKellan as the ghosts. And of course a scene where Annie Lennox comes on for no obvious reason and sings “Summertime” unaccompanied.

elokuu 1, 2020, 6:30pm

>126 SassyLassy: & >127 thorold:

Oh wow, those are both such great posts. I'm still trying to think of something. I love this question but I don't seem to be up for the challenge

elokuu 1, 2020, 9:55pm

>118 avaland: I want to set "The Idea of Perfection" in rural Kentucky. Young Mary Steenburgen as Felicity, young Kathy Bates as Harley.

I have lots of parts for Judy Davis. High up on the list is Lady Macbeth.

elokuu 2, 2020, 6:20pm

>127 thorold: Great choice for the Baillie. I had been wondering about James Robertson Justice, but I like your idea better.

That version of A Christmas Carol sounds like the best ever.

>128 Nickelini: I know you can do it!

elokuu 3, 2020, 5:48am

>126 SassyLassy: I do like the choice of Stellan Skarsgård as Heathcliff.

>127 thorold: I'm glad someone wants to more or less overhaul A Christmas Carol. Good out-of-the-box thinking there!

elokuu 3, 2020, 12:39pm

Thats a head scratcher ...hasn't that been done to death? (nothing can really replace the genius version anyway with Alistar Sims, watch it every year and it never gets old. But ymmv. After all I complained about another version of Little Women until I saw the work of art that came out earlier this year

elokuu 3, 2020, 3:03pm

OK, I've had some time to sort all my notes and line up the next 20 or so weeks of questions; and since the most recent "fun" hasn't really caught on all that well, I'd like to move ahead ask everyone this pressing question:

Question 33: We've had four plus months of a pandemic, not to mention everything else going on simultaneously in the world, locally, and within our personal circles. How has all of this affected your relationship with books? Are you reading more or less? Perhaps your needs have changed and you are reading differently? Are you perhaps reading lighter books or books about what is happening around you? Are books a distraction? a comfort? a place to hide? what? Are you buying or borrowing more or less books? Are you dipping deeper into your TBR pile? Are you missing your book club meetings or learning to love/hate Zoom meetings? Are you missing the inside of your favorite library?

Have a wee lie-down on the there leather couch and tell the doctor all about it....

elokuu 3, 2020, 3:30pm

Question 33: My reading patterns haven't changed. The main Covid issue for me is that I miss bookstores desperately.

elokuu 3, 2020, 5:29pm

like most events this one has not affected my reading; if anything its allowed me to read more (tho summer is usually my big reading month so no surprise) and yeah my two RL book groups meet on zoom, disussions aren't as fun or as spontaneous, but its better than nothing

My indi bookstore is open, except for their trade counter. I usually get my spending money by trading in books, but now its closed until further noticd. Our used store is trading, hope this one comes back soon tho.

Im making sure that most books I buy is to our indie, unless I have no choice Its a little expensive, but if it closed for good Im not sure what I would do with myself...So I don't mind spending more to keep them in business

elokuu 3, 2020, 6:56pm

Reading is about the only thing I can muster up the energy to do or care about. Seems to be my last connection to sanity. I laud others for keeping indie bookstores afloat. I wish our statewide interlibrary loan service would go back online. I do miss the lie-berry.

elokuu 3, 2020, 8:41pm

33) I am reading about the same amount, but I think my commute time has gone to watching (and re-watching) movies. I'm definitely reading more contemporary novels. Partially due to the current situation, but also due to the exposure on Litsy.

I am buying fewer books both because my favorite used bookstore is closed and because of space limitations. I suspect I am spending the same or more, but making an effort to buy new from independent stores, through and now, finally, in person.

I hated zoom bookclub meetings and have resigned myself to not attending a meeting until they can be held in person.

elokuu 3, 2020, 10:15pm

Question 33 I really missed my library, but I did read many books off my shelves. Now that my library is open, I'm slowly working through all my holds that have now come in, and the books on the shelves are sitting dormant.

At first (March) I was too stressed to read much. Am doing much better now.

What I miss MOST are library/nonprofit book sales, and the hunt for those great $1 obscure finds.

elokuu 4, 2020, 1:26am

I got a lot of reading done in the first month or two of the shutdown. But then the Census came back online, and I got promoted into the office - which means 8 hours a day (or more) literally in the office, wearing a mask and doing more things than can possibly fit into the time allotted. My reading has dropped precipitously last month (and the end of June), and what I'm reading is absorbing fluff. I don't have enough brain to read non-fiction, especially since my reading time has shrunk to almost nothing (between work, prep for work, basic chores, and sleep (not enough of the latter) my day is all gone). No time to dive deep - so I'm reading very light stuff (which is a funny thing to say, given that I read 7 books of a series that started with murder and the threat of total takeover of that world by pure evil, and am now reading a more-or-less Gothic romance). Still. Not a lot of thought, just a rip-roaring story or two.

I really miss the library booksales - we missed May and October is highly doubtful. I've volunteered for that for years, and usually end up with a box or two of books. On the other hand, I'm actually making some progress on my backlog of books bought but not yet read (the first 5 of that series were paper books, for instance). I've been getting books from the multiple libraries I have access to all along, as ebooks. I haven't felt any particular need to get a paper book, yet, though it's now possible.

I've been doing Zoom (and equivalent) meetings, but not about books (I don't enjoy book clubs, I've never found one that did books I actually wanted to read). Music and crafting, mostly, though the crafting has pretty much gone by the wayside in the last month. It's fun to talk to people, and it's great to be able to sing with people I normally don't see for years at a time because they're too far away. Of course, we can't sing in unison - it's one person performing and each person singing along, muted, so you can hear only the performer and yourself. And even that is kind of off. But it's still fun.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 4, 2020, 4:03am

Q 33
Being retired, most of my normal activities outside home are things considered non-essential and risky (in virus terms), and have thus quite rightly been on hold. I've found myself reading quite a lot more than usual. Good weather and the chance to sit outside a lot helped too. The library was shut until about a month ago, so I found myself reading from the TBR pile more than usual, and that inevitably led to buying more books. I've tried to buy secondhand as far as possible, to support small booksellers (and because old books are more fun!). The library is open again, but I haven't used it yet except to return my lockdown pile.

I did feel a pang last weekend when my calendar told me it should be Deventer book fair...

When I was still working, I did a lot of my work through video meetings, so there's nothing very exotic about using Zoom for book-club. The other members are all used to that as well. During the first few months we had a weekly 1 hr meeting to discuss a short story — that seemed to work well, although it would have been nicer if we'd been able to meet in restaurants as we do in normal times! Since things started getting a bit slacker, we've had a picnic and book-swap in the park, but now we're into the usual summer hiatus.

(I've read 131 books since we went into effective lockdown in mid-March, of which 78 were paper books from the TBR pile, and 65 paper books have come into the house in the same time, with about nine currently on order. There are still 91 books on the pile.)

elokuu 4, 2020, 3:49am

I'm reading a lot less. I've got few windows of solitude now in which to read with everyone at home, and I miss the reading aspect of my usual commute (the only thing I miss about it...). Also, as it's summer and we have long days with it staying light until 10:30pm or so, I'm also busier with projects in the garden and enjoying being outside. I do have a potential reading window late at night when everyone goes to bed, but somehow I can't settle myself to it as much. I think I'm OK when I'm in the middle of a book and it's hooked me, but it's taking me a lot longer to get going with new books than normal.

I'm also missing new book purchases like many of you. I've now read a lot of my TBR, and am mostly left with classics which for some reason I'm not in the mood for at the moment. I need peace and relaxation to read classics - work has been pretty stressful lately (and difficult to escape working from home), so I can't settle myself well to classics at the moment.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 4, 2020, 7:59am

My day-to-day life has changed surprisingly little, other than, you know, not leaving the house very often. What's missing from the equation is my two-plus hours of commuting, which has definitely—and unfortunately—cut into my reading time. I've taken the extra hour in the morning to walk a couple of miles every day, and in the evening work tends to seep into that hour... also meal prep, since I can't pick up takeout on my way home (I AM home) or just go with a bowl of cereal because I had a big protein-laden lunch at work. I've been consciously making extra time before bed to sit down and read, and stealing away the moments I can here and there, but I feel like that concentrated reading time is definitely missing. Between work, cooking, housecleaning (dirt bothers me more when I'm home all day, apparently), gardening—a great byproduct being home more—exercise, writing a lot of letters, and trying to get back into a sketchbook practice again, I feel like I have less free time than before... how can that be? I do probably spend more time on the weekends reading, both because the things I would have crammed into that time are more spread out across the week, and since my mom died in January I'm not spending every Sunday driving up to see her so I actually have a two-day weekend, rather than one.

I haven't had any trouble concentrating on books, though, and have actually been reading more weighty/complex stuff... probably at a subconscious level I want to be more engrossed than ever, and I need something that will really take all my attention. Lots of nonfiction, Wolf Hall, a bunch of Iris Murdoch. I'm due for some straight up contemporary fiction, though.

Fortunately my library system has a fantastic ebook collection that hasn't let me down, plus I have many, many unread books here. And I'll somewhat embarrassedly admit to buying lots of ebooks on sale—lord knows I don't need any more books, and several of them I've gotten through Amazon, which I hate using... I go back to the publisher's page when it's available, but sometimes I just hit that one-click button before I even know I'm doing it. Granted, I'm only spending $1.99 or $2.99 at a time, and they're just sitting on my iPad... no one knows my secret dark indulgences. (My other pandemic retail therapy being mainly cool t-shirts, dishes and napkins for those fantasy dinner parties, and fountain pen ink—that last one being me trying to avoid buying more fountain pens.) I also subscribed to the Paris Review and New York Review of Books (a resubscription) because they had a good combo deal. Can you say reading-time aspirational? Eh, as magical thinking goes it's pretty harmless. Just a lot of paper piling up that my son will have to throw out when I die.

I'm a member of two book clubs, one pre-existing and one created since COVID. The first, a loosely feminist book club, hasn't translated to Zoom as well for me—it loses a bit without having everyone's energy right there in the room—but I'm happy to see my friends, so I put up with the interface. The second, the Iris Murdoch Fan Girls, is made up of friends I've known for more than 15 years, but many of them online only—I've only met a handful of them F2F—so for whatever reason, it works better over Zoom. But both are great excuses to see friends and talk about books, so I look forward to meetings.

elokuu 4, 2020, 8:13am

>133 avaland: PS just to be clear, I’m not going anywhere near any dead-cow-ch. :-(

elokuu 4, 2020, 8:54pm

>133 avaland:

and since the most recent "fun" hasn't really caught on all that well,

I thought the movie question was lots of fun, but it was also really difficult. I don't remember details of books well enough to be able to case all the various characters

Muokkaaja: elokuu 4, 2020, 10:04pm

Q 33 COVID reading

Upon reflection, I don't think COVID has influenced my reading very much. I was already reading a lot less than I used to because I work full time and have two major projects that take priority over reading. So far this year I've only read 19 books, which is tied with 2018 for my lowest-reading year since I started tracking around 2002. I thought I was reading quite a bit, but I guess not. With my husband home more often, and my daughter back from university, I spend more time with them. I don't usually watch a lot of TV, but I did get into a few shows earlier this year (this started pre-pandemic, so not related).

I'm trying to read more light books, again, not really COVID related, but just the stage of life I'm at. I had about 900 books in my TBR pile, but very little that was light, so I did make a point of buying some different books. Most of the books I've read this year were from my TBR pile, but by May I needed something different and wanted to support an independent book store, so ordered a bunch from them, and then some LT friends recommended some books that I had to order from Indigo and Amazon. I spent almost no money at all this year, even pre-COVID, but then the dam burst. In total I've bought 16 books online since mid-May.

Then in July I had two mini-holidays to Victoria, which is a city full of wonderful bookstores. It was so amazing to be back in Munro Books and Russell Books, so 5 book shop visits later, I have another 14 books. That's a total of 30 new books in 2.5 months. I won't apologize.

My bookclub has a lot of teachers in it, so we smoothly transitioned our meetings to Google-meet up or whatever it's called. I LOVE it. I find it's fun and works well. I have my bookclub up on the laptop, and then I work on my PC creating photobooks. Also, a bunch of our bookclub members live a 40 min drive away, so I'm thrilled not to have to make those trips.

Because I have 900 TBR books, I don't use the library that much. My daughter has been doing curbside pick up and is fine with it. She knows what she wants to read and isn't much of a browser.

elokuu 5, 2020, 2:11pm

Q33 COVID Reading

My husband and I have been staying at home for the most part, since we are retired from full time work and our activities are non-essential, such as travel, theatre, music, and all have been cancelled. I had a hard time settling down early on in March and April because I tend towards anxiety, but doing better now. We read a lot, and spend at least two hours reading every evening. Reading is a real comfort thing, as it has been all my life, even more so now, as it is a constant. We do miss the bookstores though. Our fave used book sale is coming in October. I recently weeded my collection and have some to donate.

I have been racing through my NetGalley requests, finishing one every day or two. I have also succumbed to acquiring many e-books, either free or inexpensive, as if I need more of them. My Kindle has been cranky lately too, probably getting sluggish from so many downloads. I am still reading the same kinds of things as before the pandemic and social unrest. I continue to work on my TBR pile and the 2020 Category Challenges.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 5, 2020, 3:49pm

Q33 Covid et al Reading

I am definitely reading less—at least by half, and reading somewhat differently, since March. Usually, I have several different kinds of books ongoing (i.e. a novel, a nonfiction and a crime novel) which I alternate reading as desired. Winter reading was fairly normal but the spring and summer thus far has been less so; it’s been difficult and I have felt the lack of solace and peace I get from just the habit of reading. So, I’ve tried to re-adjust my reading. I couldn’t get into a most fiction, but many of the novels I’ve successfully read have been by authors who tell their stories with great empathy. Short stories and poetry have filled the gaps. My crime novel habit has mostly tanked, although I keep trying (I'm picky). My love of dystopias has gone sour. Gothic is not the answer either. Perhaps I am looking less for escape in my reading than to find some kind of integration with our current milieu.

I've bought 25 new or used books for myself since mid March. Twenty-five is about 1 1/2 per week, which sounds relatively normal. I have been to the local bookstore twice since the beginning of March. The first time I went to pick up an order of 14 books which I had emailed in earlier (half of those were to read for the grandson we watch three days a week). More recently, I went and shopped for early reader titles to read to the same grandson. I felt I had to personally flip through these titles as I was looking for more story but still a certain amount of pictures.

Otherwise, some of the books I have bought during this time have come from Book Depository, Amazon, and ABEbooks (I think Amazon is terrible for browsing books). Most of what I get from Amazon are books by familiar authors. On ABE I have paid a bit more to get my books from smaller, New England book dealers rather than Thritbooks, BetterWorld (not a nonprofit!), and other big houses.

(hubby can write his own post :-)

elokuu 7, 2020, 1:05pm


I don't think my reading has changed hugely as a result of the pandemic, except for motivating me to finally pick up a non-fiction book about pandemics that had been sitting on my TBR for ages.

My book-buying habits, however. Oh, my.

I had been trying to curtail my book-buying a bit and make progress through the TBR shelves. It was slow going, but I was making headway. I had a system. And then the pandemic hit. And several things happened:

1) I got stressed. Apparently book-buying for comfort is an instinctual response to stress for me, and uncertainty in the world makes some irrational part of my brain want to hoard more books just in case I need them, even though I already have years' worth of reading.

2) I found myself with unexpected extra income, as my work actually paid me time and a half for a couple of months for coming in to do my supposedly essential work even whole most of our other employees stayed home.

And 3) I started hearing about indie bookstores who were worried about being able to reopen when all this is over and who were hoping they'd be able to keep themselves afloat with online sales in the interim. I blame my sister for starting it, really. She sent me a link to a story about Powell's, a store I've visited in person and love and have been known to order from online from time to time. "I can help with that!" I exclaimed, and immediately placed a very, very large order with them.

And then once I started, well, there were other bookstores in need of support, clearly, and if I was going to blow my book-buying diet like that, so to speak, why shouldn't I also order this book and that book and complete this series and pre-order that forthcoming novel, while I was at it?

Sooooo, that's why I now have a four-digit number of unread books in my house, when I once swore I would never let that happen. But, hey, at least Powell's hasn't gone out of business yet. I can take credit for that, right? :)

elokuu 7, 2020, 4:39pm

>148 bragan: Ha your supporting local bookstores which is a great thing to do. I am supporting the local restaurants and so that means I have less time for reading as I need to take more exercise and then I prefer to listen to music rather than audio books. Although we live in a low risk area of France - less people and so less virus, we were in strict isolation through March April and May. The restaurants opened on June 2nd and there are five in our little town and all have outdoor seating. I still feel nervous about going into shops and always wear a mask. Now in Europe the virus is on the rise and I think it is only a matter of time before the restaurants close again, despite what the politicians are saying.

My choice of books has not changed and I am largely sticking to my reading programme. The french language book I am reading is Le Hussard Sur le Toit which features a cholera epidemic in 1832. A little different from Covid because in those days catching cholera was usually fatal and death was usually in a matter of hours, perhaps minutes. Sometimes I get a little confused going into town between the cholera and the Covid and so I find myself going out of my way to avoid all pedestrians.

elokuu 7, 2020, 8:26pm

>148 bragan: I think a lot of us recognize a bit of ourselves in your post. Apparently book-buying for comfort is an instinctual response to stress for me, and uncertainty in the world makes some irrational part of my brain want to hoard more books just in case I need them... So, true LOL

elokuu 8, 2020, 8:11am

>148 bragan: Ah yes, I share many of your reasons for my excessive book-buying over the past four months, alternating between wanting to help out indie stores (mostly through, since brick and mortar stores are only just beginning to open up in NYC) and feeling like I really need little gifts-to-self to reward myself for hanging tight through all this. I've also been saving a lot of money not commuting or eating overpriced (and usually mediocre) Financial District lunches, so it's really easy to justify spending small bits here and there, and I don't feel bad about any of it.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 8, 2020, 9:37am

>151 lisapeet: We are beginning to sound like a self-help group. Hi, my name is.... I've bought too many books this week... (this coming from someone who was perusing, ahem, shopping, small publisher catalogs yesterday....). I'm glad you don't feel guilt!

elokuu 8, 2020, 2:27pm

>148 bragan:

Oh wow, that's all so me. My husband doesn't appreciate my efforts to single-highhandedly save the book industry

elokuu 9, 2020, 2:21pm

>152 avaland: Right-o! My husband and I just donated a dozen shopping bags full of books to a local food bank for their autumn book sale (although not sure if they will actually hold it this year). When we got home, a box with three books from Powell's was waiting in the mailbox. My husband made some smart crack about refilling the shelves already.

elokuu 9, 2020, 5:23pm

>154 LadyoftheLodge: It's good when readers marry other readers, don't you think?

elokuu 10, 2020, 3:04pm

>155 avaland: Yes, it probably heads off a lot of problems before they even start!

elokuu 10, 2020, 3:42pm

The next question will show up around Friday, as per usual. Just sayin'

elokuu 10, 2020, 7:44pm

Ha! Thanks, guys. I don't know how much it really helps to know that I'm not alone, but, well... it helps to know I'm not alone. :)

elokuu 11, 2020, 12:24am

glad we all have a good problem. I've been buying more books this year too. My reading was going great through June, then sputtered in July and hasn't recovered. But I can't actually blame covid. I over-committed to read various books with various groups, and somehow that undid whatever my reading flow was. Still reading, but maybe 50% less or something like that.

elokuu 11, 2020, 3:52pm

Question 33

My reading took a hit at the beginning of the pandemic, and I found myself unable to concentrate. Switching over to light, escapist reading resolved the issue and I'm very glad that Chick-Lit and romance novels and and long articles about unsolved murders exist. After a month of that, I went back to a combination of genre fiction (usually crime), newly published literary fiction and the usual hodge podge.

When my library system and my local bookstore closed, I thought it was a good opportunity to dive into the books on my shelves, and I did do that, but my reaction to the stress of things I can do nothing about is to buy books. So when the local bookstore talked up and later when they opened to curbside delivery, I rolled up my sleeves and did my duty/pathologically soothed myself. I regret nothing.

elokuu 12, 2020, 2:44am

I didn't think Covid had an impact on my reading since I'm reading at the same pace I read last year, just a little faster, but I can see now it has. I'm picking up books just fine and reading them but I'm nit-picking everything. I feel frustrated at every little thing that goes wrong and I feel angry at the world. I'm finding I'm doing better with more adventure/odyssey type books such as Larry McMurtry or nonfiction. I just bought four nonfiction this past week to see if nonfiction will indeed satiate this weird mood I'm in. Otherwise, literary fiction seems to be getting on my nerves right now. I haven't found a new favorite this year either which is a bit disappointing; a lot of "just fine" reads and some "I'll forget about this but I enjoyed it as I read it" books but nothing that has really excited me.

elokuu 12, 2020, 3:25am

Question 33

As I said on my own thread this week, I just want to lose myself in stories at the moment. That seems to have made me both more critical (if it's not working, I'll dump it more easily than usual) and less critical (I care less right now about the quality of what I'm reading - as long as it engages me, I'm happy). My reading has changed a lot in the last few months since confinement finally pushed me into reading library e-books, both from the library network here in Wallonia and from my 'new' library in New York (I have no connection to New York, but it was pretty much the only library I could find in an English-speaking country that would accept overseas readers for a reasonable annual fee). Reading library e-books has made me willing to give up more easily, which suits my mood - if I don't like a book, I return in and try something else.

elokuu 12, 2020, 1:50pm

>161 lilisin: >162 rachbxl: I have had similar issues with reading. I am much more likely to easily give up on a book, and skip to the end to find out what happened. I guess that is a lack of patience. I also have the feeling of being frustrated with things going wrong, distrust of people, and angry at the world. Thanks for the validation.

elokuu 12, 2020, 4:45pm

>160 RidgewayGirl:, >161 lilisin:, >162 rachbxl:. >163 LadyoftheLodge: Yup, I also find it much more easy to set aside a book (I hesitate to use the work "give up" as there could come a time, I might pick it up again).

elokuu 13, 2020, 6:55am


A memoir (US: /ˈmemwɑːr/; from French: mémoire: memoria, meaning memory or reminiscence) is a collection of memories that an individual writes about moments or events, both public or private, that took place in the subject's/person's life. The assertions made in the work are understood to be factual. —- wikipedia. While a memoir is a collection of memories, "an autobiography is also written from the author's perspective, but the narrative spans their entire life."

The authors of memoirs and the topics they write about are both expansive. Athletes, performers, soldiers, writers, politicians, famous and ordinary people write them, for example; and such memoirs focus on everything from one’s childhood, career, or accomplishment; to illness, death of a loved one, or the experience of fatherhood/motherhood.

The imperfect nature of memory is that every time one remembers an event, we may remember it differently for several reasons; it can be much like that old telephone game, or we remember according to who we are and what we might need at the time. This is likely to make memoirs and autobiographies inherently biased with regards to history. Does that bother you at all?

Called in one 2011 NY Times piece "an absurdly bloated genre" The piece discusses the genre and it’s author states: "That’s what makes a good memoir — it’s not a regurgitation of ordinariness or ordeal, not a dart thrown desperately at a trendy topic, but a shared discovery." Do you agree?

Please tell us about your reading of memoirs or autobiographies. Why do you read them? Do you read a variety or are you attracted to certain kinds of memoirists or topics. Or do you prefer autobiography? What are some memoirs/autobiographies you enjoyed (or conversely, disliked)

Muokkaaja: elokuu 13, 2020, 11:23am


Huge subject! "memoir" picks up about 350 hits in my catalogue — not all actually are memoirs within the meaning of the act, but the true number must be in the region of 5-10% of the books I've catalogued here. And of course there are all those troublesome boundary areas: autobiographical novels and auto-fiction on one side, letters and diaries on the other, as well as books that are descriptions of first-hand experiences but fall into other categories, like travel. (Exercise for the reader: work out whether The autobiography of Alice B Toklas counts as an autobiography, a memoir, or a piece of fiction..!)

It's fascinating reading about other people's experiences, I suppose, but I'd agree that there has to be some kind of added value. Writers who have nothing to say are usually not worth reading, even if they are people who've done things that should be very interesting. There's something behind all those jokes about booksellers advertising "a rare unsigned copy" of a politician's memoirs...

It's usually not hard to spot the books to avoid from their front covers (e.g. involvement of a ghost-writer or a lot of press quotes about the person and none about the book...), but I occasionally let myself get sucked in. The dreadful I-was-Obama's-diary-secretary memoir Who thought this was a good idea? was picked by my book-club a few years ago, and we all agreed it was one of the worst ideas we'd ever had... More recently, Adam Savage's Every tool's a hammer was at least competently written, but said absolutely nothing he hadn't said dozens of times before.

Not all "bad memoirs" are a waste of time: I really enjoyed Alma Mahler's autobiography and her memoir of Mahler, even though both of them are blatantly distorted and self-serving, simply because she was such an interesting character living in the middle of a whole pack of geniuses (and married to several of them...). Similarly, Stephen Spender's World within world is a fantastic and very enjoyable memoir, unreliable though it is — and you can always set it against Isherwood's version in Christopher and his kind!

I've always liked Joe Ackerley's My father and myself, one of the classic "don't publish until I'm safely dead" autobiographies.

Another literary memoir I like very much, though in a rather different way(!) is John Buchan's Memory hold-the-door.

The best musical autobiography I've read (up to now...) is Michael Tippett's Those twentieth century blues, a book you can enjoy even if you only have a very limited interest in the world of mid-20th century British classical music.

I've a lot of "AIDS memoirs" on my shelves — possibly the best I've read is Before night falls (Antes que anochezca) by Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas; but Paul Monette's classics Becoming a man and Borrowed time also demonstrate that even a very undistinguished novelist can turn into a fantastic memoirist when he has something important to say.

"Memoirs of other people" is an interesting category as well: George Szirtes's recent book about his mother, The photographer at sixteen, is a brilliant example of what can be done with that form. Vikram Seth's Two lives (about his aunt and uncle) is another very interesting one, where you can't really tell where the line from "family memoir" to "novel" should fall.

On the other hand, I liked Jeanette Winterson's fictional treatment of her early life in Oranges are not the only fruit better than the non-fiction version Why be happy when you could be normal? (although that's a great title). And Armistead Maupin's autobiography Logical family turns out not to add very much to the biography Patrick Gale wrote (with his cooperation) a couple of decades earlier!

Best memoir I've read in the last few months is unquestionably Down Second Avenue by Es'kia Mphahlele.

(I could probably go on for another 700 pages...)

elokuu 13, 2020, 11:49am

I agree that the memoir genre is glutted with dysfunctional family stories that the authors rushed to get to print while the wounds were still fresh. The Glass Castle falls into that category. I kept thinking that the book would have been much more interesting had Walls waited for both of her parents to die and spent some time reflecting on things. I found the TV show "Nurse Jackie" and the Patrick Melrose series (both fictional) more insightful treatments of messed up families.

I am thinking of a reading program for next year on movie memoirs to dovetail with my online movie group. Any recommendations for movie memoirs and autobiographies? Less interested in the gossipy and more interested in actors/movie makers focusing on their interpretation of interesting roles and or films they have done. Probably that eliminates anything with co-authors or "as told to" in the title.

elokuu 13, 2020, 12:03pm

Q 34

Of all of the memoirs I've read that I've tracked/remember reading, most of them fall into one of two categories: Holocaust memoir and diary, which I've read either for a college class of that title or earlier, while growing up, because when you grow up Jewish that sort of thing just comes with the territory; and Autism/Aspergers memoirs, which I seek out and read and also collect, in a small, ad hoc, I Have No Money sort of way.

I've branched out a bit recently into other types of memoir - I read Dani Shapiro's memoir Inheritance and Ilana Kurshan's Daf Yomi themed memoir If All the Seas Were Ink within the last year or so,and enjoyed both of them, and I'm actually reading another memoir right now: Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell. So far, four chapters in, I'm enjoying the memoir, even though I've really come to dislike Julie herself. That's a bit of an outlier for me, though, I think, enjoying a memoir whose narrator I take a strong disliking to.

Generally speaking, I think I seek out memoirs focusing on things I'm already interested in, such as writing and Doctor Who, in the case of Russel T Davies's The Writer's Tale; or memoirs by people with whom I have something in common, like Judaism or Autism Spectrum Disorder or a hobby, like cooking in the case of Julie & Julia or Dungeons and Dragons as in Shelly Mazzanoble's Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress.

I don't rely on memoir or autobiography for learning history, especially history I'm not already familiar with, so the fact that memoir is inherently biased and shaped by the author's memory doesn't really bother me. For accurate history, I look to historians. Memoir, in the cases where it is related to or about a historical period, is less about what happened than it is about the experience of living through it. Anything experiential like that is going to be filtered through the perspective of whoever's story it is, and that's as it should be. That's what separates memoir from history.

As to whether the genre is bloated, I don't really have an opinion, as I've only dipped my toes into the genre myself. I will say that if people are reading them, and getting something out of them, then I don't see a problem, really. But again, I'm not really familiar with the genre as a whole.

And finally, regarding why I read memoir and autobiography - I've never really thought about it before, but looking at what types of memoir I prefer, I think in a lot of cases it's another way of experiencing community for me. I read the personal experiences and narratives of people who love what I love and do the hobbies I do and are part of the communities I'm a part of, and thereby see both another perspective on beloved topics and also revel in the knowledge that I'm not alone, there are other people out there just like me, who love this just like I do.

Memoir also allows me to dive deep into topics of interest in a form that's still narrative in shape.

With Autism memoir, it's also about being able to envision a future for myself. I started reading Autism memoirs years back, probably around diagnosis, though I can't remember for sure that far back. The reality of Autistic adults who live fulfilling, happy lives, so absent from public conversations about Autism, which are 99.99% focused on children (seriously, do a web search on Autism and you'll notice that every article and result is about children. You'd think we all die when we hit 18 if you only relied on google results) and pretty gloomy in outlook to boot, is important to me, and beyond that, Autism memoirs often help me to find the words for my own experiences and useful coping mechanisms and work-arounds to integrate into my own life.

Beyond that, I think people are interesting, and I like reading about their lives.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 13, 2020, 3:38pm

I usually read two or three memoirs a year. I enjoy them, even though I'm aware that you have to take every single one of them with a grain of salt. I think of them as another form of story telling. I found Joan Rivers' memoir Still Talking and also comedian George Lopez's Why You Crying to be very readable, and I was surprised because I wasn't expecting either of them, as show biz memoirs, to be moving. I guess one lesson you learn is that in the end, people are just people, even if famous. I'm not sure why I mention them first, but they're the first two that came to mind for me.

Another memoir that surprised me by how interesting I found it was
On Watch by Elmo R. Zumwalt, about Zumwalt's time as on the Joint Chiefs of Staff as head of the Navy

Other memoirs I've read recently and enjoyed have included, in no particular order:
West With the Night by Beryl Markham
A Whole Different Ballgame by Marvin Miller, the first head of the baseball players' union
Speak to Me, Dance with Me by Agnes De Mille
Memoirs Of a Blue Puttee: the Newfoundland Regiment in World War One by A. J. Stacey

The funniest memoir I can recall reading, off the top of my head, is McCarthy's Bar: A Journey of Discovery In Ireland by Pete McCarthy

Three of my very favorite memoirs are:
War is Beautiful: an American Ambulance Driver in the Spanish Civil War by James Neugass
The Color of Water by James McBride
In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs: a Memoir of Iran by Christopher de Bellaigue

Finally, two self-published memoirs by recently deceased personal friends of mine. I didn't meet either of these men until they were in their late 80s, and these two memoirs allowed me to learn many precious details about their full, fascinating lives:
Land of Frozen Laughter: a Community Development Volunteer in the Vietnam War, 1967-1969 by John Lewallen
Shamrocks and Salsa by Gerry Cox

elokuu 13, 2020, 3:55pm

>167 nohrt4me2: Film-memoirs: I enjoyed Anita Loos's A girl like I, on the very early days of the American film industry. But it's a long time since I read it.

elokuu 13, 2020, 6:21pm

>170 thorold: Excellent! I love Anita Loos!

elokuu 13, 2020, 6:53pm

I tend to prefer reading biographies, because writers of memoirs are often too close to the subject to make the story believable. Biographies sometimes are far apart enough that the see events from different perspectives. But there are some memoirs that I just love West with the Night is an old favorite (and I found out that she was friends with the author of out of africa, which itself was wonderful.

I like finding memoirs by chance about someone I never heard of. Examples Adventures of a Hollywood Secretary (the author is a cousin of one of my book buddies, she introduced me to it)

Found this in a cafe with a give one take one shelf back in college. Daughter of Confucious a personal history by Wong Su-lui but compiled by Earl Herbert Cressey in 1952. The author grew up in an Chinese gentry household. covering her life from 1918-1952, and reminds me a great deal of wild swans I know much of the writing may not be hers, but I suspect the words were they sound very genuine and honest (tombstone doesn't have it but amazon does if you are intersted

More memoirs I love

Becoming Michelle Obama

Its Always Something Gilda Radner

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Chicken every Sunday by rosemary taylor, Tells of her life in Tucson in the early 1900s, and since I went to college there, it was great fun reading and realizing where all the street names came from

Ill come up with more, but thats a start! (have we done biographies yet?)

elokuu 14, 2020, 5:59am

>172 cindydavid4: No, we haven't done biographies yet :-)

elokuu 16, 2020, 8:00am

I looked under my "memoirs" tag in my library and discovered far more memoirs/autobiographies than expected, and I suspect I have not always been consistent with tags so there are are likely more. I also note that I have several excellent ones (Rebecca Solnit, Michelle Obama) in the TBR pile.

Most, but not all, of the memoirs I've read could be categorized as "women's lives". For example, it seems one way I have explored the world is through the lives of women. Take Africa, for example, while I was also heavily reading fiction out of Africa, I read memoirs by women from Somalia, Lesotho, Senegal, Kenya, Egypt, Botswana and Nigeria (to name a few -- gosh, I've not been good putting everything in my library!) Some of these books were not smooth reads, perhaps it was the original writing, or the translation, but they were worthy reads if only to "hear" what these women have to say.

This reading hasn't been limited entirely to Africa, there's also been memoirs of lives lived in China, indigenous Australia, Palestine and Iran. And there have been readings of American women-written slave narratives,, diaries of early American women and so on. I also have read memoirs written by people I much admire: Anita Hill, Hillary, Madeline Albright to name a few of the most well known.

Beyond that, there have been a few random memoirs by writers - Pasternak, DeBeauvoir, Butler, Wilhelm, Oates and Cronin.

Hard to pick favorites looking back. Not sure some would be as interesting now, outside of the era they were written in (?).

True Notebooks by Mark Salzman's tales of teaching creative writing in a juvenile detection facility
Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War by Anthony Shadid
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself by Harriet A. Jacobs
Seeking Palestine: New Palestinian Writing on Exile and Home, editors Raja Shehadeh and Penny Johnson
Speaking Truth to Power by Anita Hill, her autobiography
Madame Secretary by Madeline Albright, her autobiography
Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton, her autobiograpy
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

One of the funniest memoirs I read was Augusten Burroughs' Running With Scissors, a memoir of his eccentric family; but with regards to the truth in the telling, I suspected certain incidences to have been embellished. I think if I were to write a memoir of my family, I'd chose to make it a situation comedy even if it wasn't :-)

I admit that I do not read many memoirs from the younger generations. Generally, I am reading less memoirs (and generally less books than I used to).

Not sure if letters and diaries fall into the memoir category...or for that matter "conversations with" books. The content is indeed the subjects' own words...

elokuu 16, 2020, 9:38am

>174 avaland: I think "alt-memoirs"—letters and diaries—would be a good topic for another one of these sometime.

Looking at my books over the past few years I really run the gamut—it's not necessarily my favorite form but I'm drawn to certain stories, most of them offbeat (other than Michelle Obama, whose book I read and enjoyed along with a bazillion other people). What I like best is a braided memoir, where someone uses their life to talk about other things beside themselves. A few standouts:

Old in Art School by Nell Painter
Mean by Myriam Gurba
Afterglow: A Dog Memoir by Eileen Myles
Drawing Blood by Molly Crabapple
The Fly Trap by Fredrik Sjöberg
H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
Stitches by David Small

I also like musician memoirs, especially by women in the business:

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon
Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. by Viv Albertine
Just Kids by Patti Smith

I don't really care for the confessional/disfunction/abuse memoir, unless it's got something more to say than "this is what happened to me but I got past it." Part of that is my own preferences, but also the enormous saturation of the genre in the essay world—I think it hit its peak four or five years ago. I find oversharing for oversharing's sake a bit problematic—someone wrote a piece a while back, can't remember who or where, the gist of which was that the essay market of the time was encouraging younger writers, especially young women, to spill their dark stories to get published. There was an objection to the exploitation aspect—that a younger person might not be as clued in to the repercussions of putting this stuff up for the world to read—and also putting stories out into the world before they're fully baked, before a writer has had a chance to let them and their reverberations percolate for a while so they can use their experiences in a really mature, fully-formed piece.

Obviously other people's mileage will vary, but as a chronic undersharer I think I prefer reading about the arcs of fully-formed lives and less sensationalism.

elokuu 16, 2020, 12:55pm

>174 avaland: oh yes Madam Secretary was wonderful. Got to see her several times when she did a reading at my local indie, and I remember this one very well. I also read Running with Scissors which immediately reminded me of life among the savages bt Shirley Jackson.

elokuu 16, 2020, 2:26pm

Q 34 Memoir

Last year I realized that I love memoirs. Many, many years ago I used to enjoy reading autobiographies, but then my tastes changed. I liked to hear the whole story, from the author's birth until the point of writing. But now I prefer a memoir, which I think of as more thematic and the writer's memory and impressions of what happened more than just documentation.

I have 71 books tagged "memoir" in my library. Here are some that I remember the most:

Born a Crime, Trevor Noah - growing up in South Africa (no story of how he got famous or his life after SA)
Goodbye to All That - life in WWI trenches (I preferred this to the more popular All Quiet on the Western Front, which was also good though)
Educated, Tara Westover - growing up in an extremest family
North of Normal, Cea Sunrise Person - a young woman raised by her hippie grandparents in a tent in the wilds of Canada
Without You There is No Us, Suki Kim - teaching sons of North Korea's elite
Bossypants, Tina Fey
Wave, Sonali Deraniyagala - life after losing her husband, children & parents in the Boxing Day tsunami in Sri Lanka
Eating Dirt, Charlotte Gill - tree planting in the forests of British Columbia
This Common Secret, Susan Wicklund - life as a travelling abortion doctor in the US
Survival at Auschwitz, Primo Levi
Shame, Jasvinder Sanghera - forced marriage of Sikh girl living in England
I Remember Nothing & I Feel Bad About My Neck, Nora Ephron
Unbearable Lightness, Portia di Rossi - living with and recovering from anorexia
Beautiful Boy: a Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction, David Sheff
Midnight Express, Billy Hayes - surviving a Turkish prison
Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt - growing up in extreme poverty in Ireland
Infidel, Ayan Hersi Ali - from Somali to the Dutch parliament
Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid, Evelyn Lau

Wow, that's a lot of suffering when you put it all together like that

Muokkaaja: elokuu 16, 2020, 3:07pm

Barbara Ehrenreich's Bright-Sided is a memoir of sorts about her bout with breast cancer and the breast cancer research and non-profit "support" organizations racket. As a chronic cancer patient, I felt it gave voice to the frustrations of people with all kinds of cancer, the insistence on "positive thinking," and the emphasis on brave "survivors" rather than those in the final stages of he disease who are ignored as failures of some sort. I appreciated her compassion for those of us who will die with or of the disease.

elokuu 16, 2020, 3:50pm

>178 nohrt4me2:
Indeed, Bright-sided was an excellent book. I recently read Olivia Newton-John's memoir, and at the time of writing, she'd gone through 3 rounds of cancer. She talked so much about positive thinking -- I really wanted to ship my copy of Bright-Sided to her.

elokuu 16, 2020, 4:08pm

>177 Nickelini: I forgot Bossypants which I listened to in the car! So fun. And Infidel was excellent. Not sure I liked Angela's Ashes as much as so many others did.

>178 nohrt4me2: I very much loved Bright-sided (I would not thought of listing that, even though, yes, it is part memoir. Sort of like Madeline Albright's book on Fascism which does have some of her personal observations).

Muokkaaja: elokuu 16, 2020, 4:27pm

>179 Nickelini: Interesting. Ehrenreich talks about bright-siding as an American phenomenon. Apparently it is not restricted to Americans. I believe Newton John is Australian.

Nickel and Dimed is more reportage than memoir, but contains memoir elements.

>180 avaland: Yes, I never thought of "Facism" by Albright. Great writer and speaker!

Muokkaaja: elokuu 16, 2020, 5:03pm

I enjoy memoirs as a personal take on a time period, event, or life. I have 70+ tagged as memoir, so here are a few of the ones I remember favorably.

Marjane Satrapi's Complete Persepolis
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Simple Dreams by Linda Rondstadt
Garlic and sapphires: the secret life of a critic in disguise by Ruth Reichl
Meeting faith: the forest journals of a black Buddhist nun by Faith Adiele
Prairie silence by Melanie Hoffert
Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham
Dreaming me: Black, Baptist, and Buddhist by Jan Dean Willis
Lab girl by Hope Jahren
Words without music by Philip Glass
Walls: resisting the third Reich by Hiltgunt Zassenhaus

I didn't enjoy Red dust: a path through China by Ma Jian, but read it anyway.

I notice the vast majority of these are written by women (9 of 12 on the list above, 46 out of 74 in my total list), so I'm clearly self-selecting in this direction.

elokuu 16, 2020, 5:08pm

>177 Nickelini: Your mention of Survival at Auschwitz made me wonder how I could have forgotten to include Elie Wiesel's Night on my list.

elokuu 16, 2020, 7:08pm

>178 nohrt4me2: Oh I remember that as an essay I think in the new yorker and she was roasted over the c0als for that. I cheered tho - I always thought the whole pink think, etc was over the top and unnecessary. Like you I appreciated her compassion and think she gave people food for thought.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 17, 2020, 9:08am

>184 cindydavid4: Yes, "Welcome to Cancerland" was the article later expanded into book form. Her ideas were controversial at the time, ditto the Canadian documentary, Pink Ribbons, Inc.

Did not mean to derail the topic. But interesting when reporting and personal experience/memoir dovetail in a way that tell a larger story.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 17, 2020, 5:37am

>175 lisapeet: Lisa, speaking of musical memoirs do you remember the one that covered bands that broke up in the seventies, like the beatles, simon and garfunkle, chicago.....I remember being amazed by how connected they all were with each other. It also included the introduction of James Taylor and Carole King. Any idea?

>183 rocketjk: Night is the reason I tend to avoid Shoah memoirs; there are few that can match him. Which brings up diaries, because Anne Frank certainly should be included as a memoir.

Oh just thought of two more

Paula and The Year of Magical Thinking, both memoirs of mothers who lost children to illness. Didion's book turned into a one woman broadway play starring Vanessa Redgrave. Allende, who had written many novels about her life and subsequent emigration to America, is at her best in this very moving account of her daughter. Both express many universal themes of grief and loss.

elokuu 17, 2020, 9:10am

Musical memoirs: Have not read Just Kids by Patti Smith, but it has rec'd decent reviews.

elokuu 17, 2020, 9:43am

>186 cindydavid4: Don't know that particular book, Cindy. I have Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon--and the Journey of a Generation, but it's only about those three women, and it's definitely not a memoir or autobiography.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 17, 2020, 11:24am

>188 lisapeet: aHA, found it Fire and Rain ! read the reviews here, huh no one bothered to mention the larger than life includion of Joni Mitchell and Carole King,and other women singers from that time period. They played a big part, es with their song writing, and well, love affairs.

A Ladys Life in the Rocky Mountains Im not big on memoirs about pioneers, they tend to sound too much the same, but I really liked this one. (I do enjoy some historic fiction however, Inland was pure genius

Muokkaaja: elokuu 19, 2020, 11:30am

Just downloaded Khzir Khan's bio, An American Family. You might remember him as the man at the 2016 DNC who offered Donald Trump his pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution.

elokuu 19, 2020, 3:21pm

Chiming in on #34. I’ll spare my lists, but add that I’ve always loved memoirs, autobiographies and biographies - except that when I think that, my guard goes up and them suddenly I get very judgmental and impatient with them. But they’ve always provided a nice window into real life for me. Childhood’s fascinate me. And the thought processes behind ideas fascinate me - especially behind arts and literature, but also politics, etc. I often prefer the thoughts, intensions and efforts to the products. I can read memoirs if authors whose books I wouldn’t touch and find them terrific. (However, I struggle with analyses. I find lit criticism work)

When I first began to view myself as a reader I read an autobiography of the wife of the last Shah if Iran. Of course, heavily doctored and not really an author. I don’t think the source could be less promising, but it was on my parent’s shelves. I still think about it.

What I can’t do is adequately explain why I sometimes prefer a bad memoir to a good book. I just find memoirs disarm me more because they have a simple straightforward purpose. I don’t have to worry so much about what the author is trying to do, I can just relive part of their (imagined) true life and thinking with them

>175 lisapeet: you hit two of my favorites at the end there with Viv Albertine (who I hadn’t heard of) and Patti Smith.

elokuu 20, 2020, 8:43am

>191 dchaikin: Interesting about the childhood memoirs; any ideas why the fascination?

elokuu 20, 2020, 9:23am

>192 avaland: some ideas. Childhood is extremely formative and defines much of who we are. So, windows into it are very revealing about who we are. Also, I think they are wildly different for each of us because, first, it’s our rawest personal self confronting the world and, second, as a child the world we confront is sheltered from the larger world. And third, they send each person into wildly different directions.

But probably there is something about my perspective on my own childhood in there too. Things i imagine or miss or wish i had or am still trying to understand or have forgotten and want it try to remember. Or simply, because we are all first children, there is a commonality i can relate to. (So differences and also commonalities??)

I’m answering worrying I’m not saying anything that everyone else already knows and takes for granted.

elokuu 20, 2020, 11:03am

>193 dchaikin: Interesting! I can't remember ever reading a childhood memoir. I have read that every child experiences his family in a different way.

My husband has very sketchy memories of his childhood and felt distant from his parents. His older brother has vivid memories and warm feelings about the family.

It is always interesting to listen to them reminisce. His brother has a much firmer grasp on what made family members tick and generally has more empathy. He embellishes more. My husband is a very loyal person, but was never very interested in what his parents and large extended family thought, felt, or experienced. He relied on them for stability and support, and liked everyone equally.

Both are smart, well-adjusted, and affectionate people, but their memoirs would be very different. And of much different lengths.

elokuu 20, 2020, 11:14am

Speaking of memoirs, over the past few years I've been gradually reading through this excellent anthology: The Norton Book of Women's Lives edited by Phyllis Rose. The book is comprised of excerpts from memoirs written by women from all walks of life and eras, some famous but not all. It is very well done, introduced me to many women I'd never heard of and can give you some great ideas for memoirs to read.

elokuu 20, 2020, 11:47am

Oh I have that! Very interesting.

A couple of years ago I saw the movie "Colette' Starring Keira Knightly, and was facsinated by this french author of such books as Gigi, as well as the Claudine books that she wrote but were printed in her husbands name!. She came into her own, and wrote a memoir called In My Mother's House its a wonderful reminise of childhood, family and nature in a rather idyllic setting. I loved it, and went on to read several of her other books. (btw I did not realize that the actress who played Gigi, Audrey Hepburn, was actually discovered by Colette, leading her to a wonderful acting career) Anyway, you might be interested in reading the memoir.

elokuu 20, 2020, 3:40pm

My favorite childhood memoirs are A Fortunate Grandchild and Time Remembered by Miss Read. They remind me of a simpler and maybe happier time.

elokuu 21, 2020, 1:41am

I find that I like reading memoirs but usually centered around a certain event instead of learning about someone's entire life. For example I'm currently reading the famous Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer about his experience on Everest right at the 1996 disaster. Right before that I had read My Hitch in Hell by Lester I. Tenney about his experience as a POW of the Japanese during the Bataan Death March. In fact, I've read quite a few war memoirs now. Travel writing (which we've discussed before I believe) would fit close to this category as it is basically a person's memoir but only in that one moment of time. Educated would be the only memoir in recent time I've read (I mention recent because I remember in middle school reading a book about Helen Keller and Lucille Ball to write a report on them) that actually focused on an author's life during a much more expanded time period. But I was only interested in that because of her particular upbringing. I wouldn't be against reading a memoir about someone's entire life, I don't think, but I don't know who I'd want to read about. It's a lot easier to choose books based on what I want to read about and find memoirs that focus on that.

elokuu 21, 2020, 6:41am

>193 dchaikin: Good thoughts, thanks for indulging me :-)

elokuu 21, 2020, 9:33am

>194 nohrt4me2: Interesting about your husband and brother in terms of childhood memories. I had a relatively happy childhood but have very few memories—I always attribute it to the fact that I was a very self-absorbed kid who was not encouraged to take any interest in the rest of the world, including my parents and the family dynamic. But whatever the reason, I couldn't write a childhood memoir if I tried.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 21, 2020, 1:50pm

>200 lisapeet: My husband's memories begin with his learning to read. He vividly remembers things he read and thought. Memories for him start with literacy. Might that be your pattern? He was a middle child.

I was the first grandchild on both sides of the family and the only girl. I remember everything, sucked up every story I heard, and asked for more. I know where all the bodies are buried, and which closets the skeletons are in, and who was fooling around with whom when they shouldn't have been. My memories are vivid and go back to age 2.

elokuu 21, 2020, 10:51am

>201 nohrt4me2: Somewhat, yeah. I remember all my little interior games and rhymes and just about everything I read, and next to nothing of the exterior world. I was basically an only—half sibs 13 and 15 years older than me, so we didn't spend too much time in the same house—and had an intense fantasy life. I played by myself a lot.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 21, 2020, 4:55pm

>202 lisapeet: Thanks for sharing that. My son is an only and his memory seems to be a lot like yours. He was never interested in family info.

As a small child, he became extremely upset over not having a sibling and made some up. It was all very vivid and a little disturbing. Especially "Jim," who was an illiterate biker and had been in the slammer. "Fred" was a small child who lived in terms basement and made the noises coming from the pipes and furnace.

Interestingly, he did ask for a photo of my dad, who died when he was about 14, to put in his apartment. He remembers a lot about Dad and the cats.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 22, 2020, 11:03am


elokuu 21, 2020, 3:07pm

I wonder if a taste for reading about other people's early lives goes together with our own early experiences of storytelling — those of us who grew up listening to our grandparents' accounts of what the world was like when they were little perhaps have a different appreciation of such things from those who didn't have the advantage of that kind of extended family?

I don't necessarily find it all that interesting reading about the alarming or mildly funny things that happened to writers when they were young, but I do find it fascinating to read their ideas about how their early backgrounds — and the kinds of lives their parents and grandparents had — influenced the kind of people they grew up to be and their need to write about particular kinds of things (the George Szirtes book I mentioned in >166 thorold: would be a very good example of that).

That also seems to be something that often feeds into auto-fiction even more than it does into straight autobiography, as in the book I've just finished today, Andrés Neuman's novel about his family and early childhood, Una Vez Argentina.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 22, 2020, 1:03am

>166 thorold: >205 thorold: George Szirtes has just won the biography category of the James Tait Black prize with The photographer at sixteen! (The fiction winner this year was Ducks, Newburyport, a book not unknown in Club Read)

elokuu 23, 2020, 2:35pm

An update on Question 33:
Not the pandemic, but work stress has seriously changed my reading in the last few days. I was reading an interesting coming-of-age fantasy (The Confectioner's Guild) and found the story too tense and twisted for me (it's not, really, it's perfectly good, but I can't handle it at the moment). Tried an animal story, Meph the Pet Skunk by Jean Craighead George - still too much. I have now read three of Ursula Vernon's Princess Harriet books and they were perfect - utterly light and fun, with no real danger or high stakes (despite some discussion of the need for killing various beings - normal, for Harriet). I'm now reading her Toad Words (under her pen name, T. Kingfisher) - deeper thought, but equally non-tense. And I'll be sticking to this kind of book-diet for a while, unless things get better fast (here's hoping! Process begins tomorrow).
Tämä viestiketju jatkuu täällä: QUESTIONS FOR THE AVID READER, Part 6.